It's Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) this week and GovLoop is teaming up with the Partnership for Public Service to promote PSRW by running a special series called "Meet the Government Mascot." Each day we've been introducing you to a new mascot, then we'll run a contest on May 6-8 where you can vote for your favorite.
Today's mascot is the most recognizable face yet in our mascot countdown Smokey the Bear. But did you know Smokey actually replaced Hitler in the fight against forest fires. As crazy as it sounds the United State Forest Service used caricatures of Hitler setting forest fires to educate people about how dangerous they were. Raise your hand if you're happy the Forest Service decided to switch to Smokey.
So anyways after Disney released Bambi in 1942 the Forest Service decided a cute animal cartoon was the way to go and Smokey was born soon after.
By the 1950s Smokey was an American icon. Radio, TV, cartoons, posters you name it and Smokey was on it. He got so popular that the government even wanted a piece, passing the Smokey Bear Act (any other mascots have their own act? Don't think so, chalk one up for Smokey) which provided for the use of Smokey's royalties for continued education on forest fire prevention.
By the mid 1950s Smokey had gotten half a million kids to sign up for the Junior Forest Rangers and was getting so much mail the Post Office gave him his own ZIP code (in your face Mr. ZIP). Smokey also nabbed his own stamp in 1994 as part of his 50th anniversary.
According to Richard Earle, author of The Art of Cause Marketing, the Smokey Bear campaign is recognized as among the most powerful and enduring of all public service advertising. "Smokey is simple, strong, straightforward," Earle wrote.
If you are looking for staying power and celebrity, look no further. Smokey should definitely get your vote as best government mascot.
One of his recent PSAs:
MEET THE OTHER GOV MASCOTS: