Smokey Bear Gets Social Media Birthday Bash

The Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters have given their old friend Smokey Bear a pair of interactive widgets for his 65th birthday. No word on whether or not the iconic mascot was caught by surprise.

The widgets are being pushed via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. The viral marketing tools represent the final piece to a social media campaign, dubbed “Get Your Smokey On,” that the organizations have run during the last week. (Smokey’s official birthday was Sunday, Aug. 9.)

One of the widgets went live yesterday and employs a five-question quiz titled, “How well do you know Smokey Bear?” The other widget, called “Wildfire Awareness,” debuted on Monday and entails buttons that allow viewers to find helpful links, read related news, share the widget and check out Smokey’s Twitter feed. In addition to the social media sites, viewers can post the widgets at numerous Web entities, such as Yahoo!, iGoogle, Typepad, Blogger and myYearbook.com, among others.

Also launched Monday was a contest on the photo-sharing site Flickr. “We are encouraging people to submit pictures that show how they are celebrating his birthday,” said Ellyn Fisher, director of communications for the Ad Council. “There’s no reward involved. We’ll simply highlight the winner at [SmokeyBear.com].”

At Facebook, an application allows the mascot’s 7,368 fans to vote for their favorite Smokey Bear public service announcement from a selection of eight commercials. Among them are classic PSAs like “Bambi” (1968) and “Mask” (1981), as well as newer ones that premiered this summer.

“We started our Facebook account last summer,” Fisher said. “The PSA application kicked off during last weekend, has been a really active [feature] so far and has engaged our community. People are posting to it every day.”

She added that the PSAs and other videos have been made available at a dedicated YouTube channel. So far, a modest 476 views have been recorded for the mascot’s 17-second birthday video.

But in less than a week since starting a Twitter account, Fisher said, Smokey Bear has picked up 648 followers. She said that number likely received a boost last Friday when the mascot made an early birthday appearance on NBC’s “The Today Show,” which plugged SmokeyBear.com — where tweeters are encouraged to join and follow. The campaign also included a dedicated mini-site that offers viewers the chance to send friends an e-card celebrating the birthday.

“Smokey’s presence in all of this social media is really tied to the fact that we are always keeping him contemporary but also because we are targeting young adults,” Fisher said. “And we know that social media is where they are.”

Helene Cleveland, fire prevention manager for the U.S. Forest Service, added that the campaign’s message of wildfire awareness should resonate with its target demographic of 18-to-34-year olds. “They heard Smokey when they were youngsters, but maybe haven’t for a while. These are people who are out recreating in the outdoors, and we know they are folks who have an environmental commitment.”

Home Front Communications, which, like the three participating organizations, is based in Washington, D.C., led the social media campaign. Draftfcb, a Chicago-based ad agency that’s been associated with Smokey Bear since its inception in 1944, contributed creative.

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