NEW YORK: The Ad Council and PR agency Ruder Finn (RF) have repositioned a "grimmer Smokey Bear towards an adult audience through the relaunch of the character's website.
The Ad Council, which administers the character along with federal forestry bodies, tasked RF with adapting his message for an older audience after research found that most adults feel they'd never start a fire.
RF redesigned the website, smokeybear.com, to serve as a gateway to online forestry resources, with links to factual and scientific resources.
It now features an area for adults entitled "Only You, in addition to one for kids, and "Smokey's Vault, a collection of historical campaign images.
The Ad Council hopes to play upon adult nostalgia for the character, traditionally targeted to children, to raise awareness about wildfires, as most blazes are started by adults.
"We decided to switch focus to weekend warriors and casual campers, as well as those who live in places that abut wild areas, said Stefanie Greenberg, Ad Council campaign director.
The site distinguishes "good fires - controlled burns designed to clear tinder - and "bad ones, and concedes that longstanding fire-suppression policy contributed to the recent blazes that have swept through the rural West.
The $100,000 relaunch has been featured in more than 390 local TV news broadcasts since the site went live on August 9, following a VNR distribution by specialist Homefront Communications and AP placement.
The Ad Council, which created the character in 1944 amid wartime fears that Japan might set Pacific timbers ablaze, has since used Smokey to promote fire safety in national parks. The campaign is credited with reducing the number of acres lost annually to forest fires from 22 million to 4 million.