Smokey Bear gets a makeover: Battling fires and dispensing hugs


Jul 12, 2013 10:51 am

Skift Take

All jokes aside, Smokey’s mission is a very serious and important one, given recent tragedies such as the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona who perished battling a wildfire.

— Dennis Schaal

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Smokey Bear now freely dispenses hugs in new public service announcements geared to prevent wildfires.

Johannesburg Zoo has a live-tweeting honey badger, and Banff Lake Louise Tourism has enlisted the Banff Squirrel to tweet about the Canadian town and park, with great success.

We have nothing against honey badgers and squirrels as social media spokespeople for their venues. (And even a Hipmunk, whatever that is, can have certain appeal.)

But, if you are looking for a creature with experience, wisdom, a resume, and a countenance that exudes patience, strength and resolve, then consider the new and improved Smokey Bear (aka Smokey the Bear or just Smokey to confidants).

And, for some people, Smokey undoubtedly becomes even more simpatico with this new persona because for the first time in his nearly 70 years, he now shows his sensitive side — and gives hugs.

Unsuspecting visitors to U.S. national parks (at least in the new commercials) now get heartfelt and perhaps life-changing hugs from the bear in residence when they do something worthy, such as moving a campfire away from dry brush, in the quest to keep the wilds safe from conflagurations.

As the new campaign, which appears on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, advises: “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.”

Smokey Bear’s redo comes at the behest of the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters. They are trying to increase awareness about the dangers of forest fires, or wildfires, in today’s politically correct lingo.

Smokey Bear has been wandering around the country’s national parks since 1944, and now he’s freely dispensing bear hugs, of course, to visitors who do the right thing about camping and hiking safety.

In an exclusive interview with Skift (OK, not really), sources close to Smokey Bear say he sends only his best wishes to the tweeting honey badger from Johannesburg and the Banff Squirrel of Canada, but he’s not really paying much attention to them because Smokey remains singlemindedly focused on his mission.

Smokey does have time to tweet — having issued nearly 5,000 of them to date to a posse of more than 17,000 followers — and informs the masses of his exploits, such as “Watching over the Ohio State Fair,” below.

Take a look at a couple of public service announcements featuring Smokey Bear and park visitors, and you can follow Smokey Bear on Twitter, as well, where he is active.

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