Forest Service aims to reinvigorate Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl

WASHINGTON: The US Forest Service is attempting to line up more prominent licensees for its iconic Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl characters in order to increase funding for its various educational outreach programs for fire prevention and environmental protection.

WASHINGTON: The US Forest Service is attempting to line up more prominent licensees for its iconic Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl characters in order to increase funding for its various educational outreach programs for fire prevention and environmental protection.

Both Smokey and Woodsy over the past several decades have benefited from tens of millions of dollars in free advertising from the Ad Council, with Smokey famous for advising, "Only you can prevent forest fires;" and Woodsy urging the public, "Give a hoot, don't pollute."

But Sophia Tambouratzis, principal for marketing consulting firm Metis Group, which is working with the Forest Service to more widely market Smokey and Woodsy, noted that even though the organization gets free ad time, it still needs help funding the educational outreach the Forest Service does with Smokey and Woodsy, including visiting schools and distributing educational materials, including pamphlets and DVDs.

"They're both icons, but it's gotten to the point where they're just not as much in the public's eye," Tambouratzis said. "There's no major brand licensing them; it's small t-shirt makers and people who make art work or calendars. But we need a fire alarm maker or a camping gear maker like Coleman to make products licensing Smokey Bear."

Tambouratzis said that Woodsy's broader emphasis on environmental conservation makes the character perfect for a large manufacturer like Toyota or Ikea, in their efforts to emphasize their use of renewable resources and other environmentally friendly business practices.

Metis has developed a Web site for licensing information on Woodsy, at http://www.woodsyowlproducts.com/, and is developing a similar site for Smokey Bear, though Smokey already has a Web site, at http://www.smokeybear.com/, that is sponsored by the Forest Service, Ad Council, and National Association of State Foresters and provides teacher educational resources, information on fire preventing, a games section for kids, and more. Media outreach to promote licensing opportunities may also include branding, advertising, and media publications.

Introduced in 1944, Smokey Bear is country's oldest public information campaign. Woodsy, whose message has been updated to "Lend a hand - care for the land," first appeared in the 1970s. A popular song written in 1952 that referred to "Smokey the Bear" has ever since caused confusion over the correct name of the character, whose name is in fact simply "Smokey Bear."

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