NEW YORK, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ad Council, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), announced today the launch of a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring Smokey Bear designed to raise awareness about wildfire prevention. As a continuation of the longest running PSA campaign in U.S. history, the new ads include the well-known tagline, "Only YOU can prevent wildfires," and for the first time feature Smokey Bear rewarding Americans with hugs after acting safely with fire. To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please click: http://www.multivu.com/mnr/62468-ad-council-smokey-bear-gives-bear-hugs-wildfire-prevention-psa (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130712/MM45666 ) Celebrating his 70 th birthday next year, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of protection of America's forests since 1944. His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 6.9 million today. Although progress has been made, wildfires remain one of the most critical environmental issues affecting the U.S. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, on average, nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide today are caused by people. The principle causes are careless or accidental behaviors like campfires being left unattended, debris burning on windy days, improper discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors. "As he approaches his seventieth birthday, Smokey remains the country's renowned and beloved 'spokesbear' for fire prevention," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We are confident that these new PSAs will use 'bear hugs' to enlighten a whole new generation of Americans on the critical importance of preventing wildfires. " Created pro bono by Draftfcb, the same ad agency that has developed PSAs for Smokey Bear since his birth, the new television, radio, print, outdoor and web PSAs, along with an extensive social media program, specifically target young adults ages 18 - 34 and aim to continue to decrease the number of human-caused wildfires. The ads feature a more nostalgic-looking Smokey Bear and take a more educational approach, incorporating proper extinguishing techniques for various fire-start scenarios. Simple reminders like "Drown, stir, drown again, feel if it's cold" and "Just 'cause it looks out, doesn't mean it's out" will encourage people to take the proper actions to help ensure their outdoor fires remain in control. In each television spot, Smokey Bear gives hugs to reward people who are acting safely with fire. Draftfcb recruited well-known cinematographer/director Lance Accord and Park Pictures for the production of the PSAs, and worked with Alterian, Inc. for the construction of the new Smokey costume. "These new PSAs celebrate the Smokey Bear that we all know and love, while continuing to empower Americans to act responsibly when recreating outdoors," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of The Ad Council. "According to our latest research, nearly all Americans are aware of Smokey and his message, and they understand that they have a role to play, but many don't know exactly what to do. These ads educate audiences about specific steps to properly safeguard against accidental fire and I believe they will be effective. After all, who doesn't want a hug from Smokey Bear?" The PSAs direct audiences to visit the campaign's website, www.SmokeyBear.com, where they can take a pledge and learn more about wildfire prevention. Smokey Bear is also continuing to encourage young adults to be proactive in preventing wildfires through his social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A new hash tag, #SmokeyBearHugs, will be promoted as an extension of the new creative in an effort to continue the dialogue about his important messages. "We want to make sure that Smokey Bear remains part of every generation," said Eric Springer, CCO of Draftfcb Los Angeles. "Smokey's an icon for protecting our forests and empowering us with his famous words: Only You Can Prevent Wildfires. Nothing makes Smokey happier than when people not only listen to his words but learn from them. So happy in fact, he will walk up and give you a big bear hug when he catches people acting responsibly with fire outdoors. So be smart out there next time , and who knows, you may end up getting a big bear hug from America's most lovable, wildfire-preventing bear." The Ad Council will distribute the new PSAs to media outlets nationwide this week. Per the organization's model, the PSAs will air and run in advertising time and space that is entirely donated by the media. Over the last 69 years, media outlets have donated more than $1 billion in time and space for the Wildfire Prevention campaign. "The message of wildfire prevention is as timeless as Smokey Bear," said NASF President and WV State Forester Randy Dye. "With drought conditions and an increase in the number of communities built in areas close to and in forests, his message of personal responsibility remains as important as ever. We believe the new round of PSAs will help teach and remind people to make sure they put their fires out properly."