How the Company Behind Smokey the Bear Is Now Tackling Inclusion

by AT&T Editors


The Ad Council was conceived in 1941 by advertising executive James Webb Young, and has since created a rich and storied history in our culture. For nearly every American the slogans, “Take a bite out of Crime, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” “Just say no,” and, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” conjure visions of mindful precaution. These phrases were spoken by equally iconic figures such as Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, symbols of safety unto themselves.

Young’s purpose had always been clear: use advertising techniques to communicate for the greater good. His mission was a success.

In 1942, as the U.S. entered World War II, the service launched as The War Advertising Council by promoting the sales of war bonds. It wasn’t until they partnered with the National Safety Council at the urging of President Truman in 1945 that their true mission came to fruition.

Over the years, the Ad Council has authored countless iconic phrases that guide us to do “what is right.” Each have a message of warning, but also a message of hope, and the sentiment has always been simple: when you know better, you do better.  

Now, the Ad Council is once again tapping into a cultural evolution with “Love Has No Labels,” a campaign that carries a positive message centered on diversity and inclusion.

“Research has showed us that there is one moment where biases are eroded and we see incredible stories of people coming together—in times of disaster,” states the Ad Council’s website. “These moments of togetherness show that we all have an inherent desire for inclusion and connection. Bias, society and social norms prevent us from acting like we do in disaster, every day. In reality, we are all skeletons with an innate capacity for love. “

The latest iteration of their award-winning campaign, Love Has No Labels, is a short film called “Rising,” a powerful story of humanity. Directed by David Nutter (“Game of Thrones”) and written by Lena Waithe (“The Chi”), the film captures a poignant story of a diverse neighborhood coming together in a flood and literally rising above their differences to help on and other survive. The film challenges Americans to consider, “Why does it take a disaster to bring us together?” 

At a time where we’re seeing stories of togetherness overcome the devastation with each passing hurricane season, this story is timely and relevant to all. “Rising” encourages viewers to come together at

Watch the Short Film "Rising"