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case study

Exceeding Historical Results: Leading Smokey Bear's Iconic Campaign to New Heights

Increased Average Time on Site by 37% YoY
64% of YouTube Ad Clicks Resulted In Traffic to Website

The "Smokey is Within" initiative, led by Llama Lead Gen in partnership with the National Association of State Foresters, the United States Forest Service, and the Ad Council, builds upon Smokey the Bear's historic legacy—a symbol of wildfire prevention awareness since 1944. This campaign emphasizes individual responsibility in preventing wildfires, crucial for environmental protection in the United States.

 

New ad creatives and a comprehensive website on wildfire prevention were developed for this modern iteration, targeting wildlife urban interface residents and outdoor enthusiasts. Video ads on YouTube directed viewers to the website, resulting in 35M video impressions, 1.6M views, 853K clicks, 547K web sessions, and 35K views of Prevention Resources. Engagement metrics showed a notable increase in the average time spent on the site—from 29 seconds to 1 minute and 18 seconds, marking a 37% improvement year-over-year. This reflects the effectiveness of the campaign and underscores Smokey the Bear's ongoing relevance in promoting responsibility and awareness around wildfire prevention.

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#HistoricAdCampaign

#SmokeyTheBear

#WildfirePrevention

#WildfireSafety

#EnvrionmentalCauses

Introduction

Remember, only YOU can prevent wildfires! - Smokey the Bear. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 87% of wildfires were caused by humans in 2022. Wildfires threaten people’s lives, their homes, and our precious natural resources. Firefighters risk their lives to protect our communities and suppress these preventable incidents.

 

In partnership with The United States Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, the Ad Council approached Llama Lead Gen for a wildfire prevention initiative centered around their iconic mascot, Smokey the Bear. The USFS is a federal agency dedicated to managing and preserving the nation's public lands and forests, promoting sustainable resource use, and safeguarding ecosystems for current and future generations. The NASF is a collaborative organization representing state forestry agencies, working to advance policies and initiatives for the sustainable management and conservation of forests across the United States.

 

Continuing on the historical campaign theme of individual responsibility in preventing wildfires, the “Smokey is Within” initiatives focused on messaging that encouraged viewers to take ownership and learn more about wildfire prevention tips on SmokeyBear.com. Given that the large majority of wildfires are caused by humans it is crucial for those who those who are closest to the wilderness to understand their part in fire prevention. 

 

The campaign targeted those who have residences near wilderness areas (WUI) as well as outdoor enthusiasts who go hiking often (OE). The campaign leverages a series of new video creatives across YouTube of Smokey the Bear depicting wildfire prevention tips in various scenarios as embodied by different characters. This was a traffic campaign with the main goal of driving viewers to the SmokeyBear.com landing page to engage with educational content around fire prevention.

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Objectives and Goals

The primary objective of this campaign was to enhance the general knowledge and awareness of the preventability of wild forest fires by providing educational resources on the campaign landing page. This initiative aimed to:​

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Increase exposure of wildfire prevention tips on SmokeyBear.com amongst our key demographic

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Decrease wildfire accidents caused by humans, specifically those who interact most frequently with nature

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Empower and encourage individuals to take accountability for this preventable issue

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The Challenge

The client teams came to Llama Lead Gen to help refine its media strategy and amplify their latest creative updates and messaging for Smokey the Bear. They needed to ensure that their messaging was targeted properly to our two key audiences and drive those viewers to the landing page to learn more.

 

The main challenge of this campaign was to ensure that our targeting in the platform was aligned well with the two personas given to us by Smokey the Bear’s team. We had to be cognizant of ensuring that both of our target audiences received sufficient media spend. Given that our ultimate objective was a KPI that was off-platform, it was important to find the right audience that would then leave YouTube to engage further with our landing page content. 

 

The Ad Council looked to partner with Llama Lead Gen to solidify their approach to reach the right audience and drive both video views and clicks to the website. With the past success of campaigns between Ad Council and Llama Lead Gen, we were able to leverage this existing trust and relationship to collaborate on a marketing plan.

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Strategy

The Ad Council and Llama Lead Gen chose YouTube as the main platform for this video campaign. The team wanted to leverage advanced keyword and search targeting on YouTube to serve our videos along with relevant content. Across YouTube, the campaign targeted search terms that are highly relevant to our WUI and OE audiences as well as interest categories that aligned with this demographic using Search Terms and Interest targeting. 

 

The campaign leveraged 15 and 30-second video creatives to drive traffic back to the campaign landing page. The goal was to get viewers to go to the landing page and engage with the prevention resources available. With the campaign set up, we were interested in understanding performance differences between each of our personas as well as that between Search Terms and Interest targeting in terms of effectiveness in driving viewers to our website.


We monitored the campaign performances and made regular budget optimizations based on audience performance. A mix of videos was leveraged to allow platform optimization flexibility. The videos showed Smokey the Bear embodied in different personas as “Smokey is Within” all of us and encouraged viewers to become advocates for wildfire prevention by learning the facts. Llama Lead Gen worked together with the Ad Council to ensure that the ad copy aligned with each video.  

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Solution & Implementation

Upon gaining a comprehensive understanding of the campaign's strategy and objectives, we collaborated with the Ad Council to finalize ad copy and ensured alignment with the selected target audiences. The Llama Lead Gen team was fully responsible and owned campaign setup, execution, and regular optimization on the YouTube platform.

 

Our campaign was launched followed by our meticulous QA process to ensure the proper setup of campaigns, audiences, and ads. Our team diligently monitored daily performance, making budget adjustments based on the effectiveness of ads and target audiences. Strategically reallocated media weight to more efficient audiences and ads.

 

Throughout the campaign flight, the pacing was consistent. However, manual adjustment was needed initially to ensure that the WUI audience received a sufficient budget as the algorithm skewed towards the OE audience.

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Performance & Data

The campaign had a primary objective of driving traffic from our two key personas to the landing page. We leveraged both Interest and Search Terms targeting to hone in on our ideal users. Throughout the campaign, we were able to generate a total of 35M impressions, 1.6M video views, and 853K clicks. 

 

Overall, our Wildlife Urban Interface Residents (WUI) I audience across targeting groups had a CTR that was 1.6X the Outdoor Enthusiast (OE) audience. The best-performing audience group was our WUI Site Interest audience, with a CTR of 3.00%. This audience targeted relevant websites and interest enjoyed by the WUI audience. 

The Search Terms audiences for both WUI and OE received a smaller portion of the campaign spend due to the relatively smaller audience size. For OE, while this targeting was quite costly, it did result in an above-average CTR of 2.83%. 

 

One thing to note is that likely due to its large audience size, the OE interest group received 51% of all impressions. The team had to manually adjust bids against other audience groups to ensure that they also received campaign spend.

 

Outside of platform metrics, from a web analytics perspective, our media efforts resulted in 375K users to the site, 547K web sessions, and 35K views of our key Prevention resources on the landing page. We also improved our average time on-site metric from 29 seconds to over a minute which is significant as it meant that our viewers were deeply engaged with the educational content available on SmokeyBear.com

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852,466

Clicks

547,682

GA Sessions (64% of clicks made it to the website)

96,251

Actions on Site (18% action rate)

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The Llama Lead Gen team is one of the strongest examples I have personally witnessed of a good balance in distribution of labor. Every member on the team was actively involved in leading various meetings, offering suggestions to improve campaign performance.

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Rasheia Harris

Digital Media Director @ Ad Council

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Moving Forward

Humans are the cause of 87% of wildfires in the US and therefore humans are also the solution. “Smokey is Within” is an initiative that advocates for individual responsibility in preventing wildfire. With updated video creatives, Smokey is once again reminding the public that we all have a hand to play in reducing this devastating environmental issue. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves on proper fire safety etiquette. 

 

With YouTube, we successfully executed our traffic campaign objective against our key audiences by generating 35M impressions, 853K clicks, and 35K views of the Prevention Resources on site. From the 853K clicks on the ad platform, 547K of those (or 64%) resulted in web sessions on our landing page which is an indication that our ads had reached the relevant audience groups. Additionally, there was a 37% improvement in the average time spent on site from 29 seconds to 1 minute and 18 seconds year over year.

 

There were many learnings throughout the campaign. Overall, given the campaign's performance, we felt confident in this new set of creatives and audience groups, as 4 out of 5 (or 80%) of our audiences had an above 2% CTR (compared to a benchmark of 0.10-0.84%). One thing that we recommended optimizing is our audience setup