The USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council kicked off their summer 'unplug and re-connect' advertising campaign over the weekend to coincide with National Get Outdoors Day and the events planned at state and national parks around the country.
The Unplug and Discover the Forest campaign encourages families to unplug those televisions and electronics and take themselves and their children outside to reconnect with nature and become closer as a family by sharing in healthy activities.
According to the Kristen Wesley, digital media specialist with the Ad Council, "children spend 50% less time outdoors then they did 20 years ago," she said.
The newly launched Public Service Announcement's (PSA), Wesley said, were unveiled this past weekend, on National Get Outdoors Day, at Kingman Island by Tom Widwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and will begin running on television and in print, as well as being available on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on the Discover the Forest website.
A multi-faceted approach to social media is being taken this year by the Forest Service and the Ad Council to reach a larger audience, with the hopes of encouraging people to change their summer routine and discover the wonders of the forest, according to the Ad Council representative.
Wesley said the campaign which began two years ago, and was reported on by Digital Journal in 2010 when Shrek was the star of the advertisement, "aims to encourage children and their families to get outside and experience the many benefits of nature." In an email Wesley said that "Research shows that children who play outside have a reduced risk for obesity, lower stress levels, more active imaginations and they’re more likely to become environmentally conscious adults."
The Discover the Forest website, which is powered by Google and Nature Find, includes an interactive map which can be used to search for and find forests and parks in your area by simply entering your zip code or a the zip code where you plan to visit. The site also features a guide for parents who are interested in ways to entertain the family after unplugging the electronics which Turbine, the company who created the ads, says pervades every part of our daily lives and existence.
Through downloadable guides and children's activities, the web-site is proving to be user friendly and an excellent source of information on new things to do and places to go in our own backyards, as well as travel destinations. The guides are also available on a Spanish version of the web-site which can be found here.
Tammy Hess of Berkeley County WV said she found the Discover the Forest website and interactive maps to be easy to navigate and she was surprised to find places within an hour drive of her home that she had not yet had the opportunity to visit or know about. Hess's children enjoyed viewing the site and were excited to plan some activities outdoors after watching the new commercials.
Hess's family, including her parents and grandparents, have visited many of the state and national parks within a 100 mile radius of the Washington, DC area since she was a child. She continues these family traditions of taking her daughters camping, fishing, hiking and visiting the national parks in her region, including the park at Harpers Ferry where she has also had the opportunity to train as a Rope Rescue Technician on the cliffs across the river from the Harpers Ferry National Park and will complete training as a Swift Water Rescue Technician this summer at the park.
Hess, who is a volunteer firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), said she was interested in preserving the forests through her work as a volunteer firefighter, as well as protecting park-goers and being a part of rescue services for the public who might find themselves in need while outdoors. But most importantly she wants her children to love the outdoors as much as she does and to provide her kids these same opportunities.
John Miller of Martinsburg, WV also participated in a focus group for the Discover the Forest website. He said, "his family and children found the site to be user-friendly and would definitely use it again to plan summer activities." Miller said living an hour west of Washington they were fortunate to have dozens of options when searching the site to find what is available to enjoy within a few hours drive from their home.
Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council in a press release statement, “We are proud to join our partners at the USDA Forest Service again this year with new materials that encourage families to truly discover the wonders of our national, state and urban forests. We hope the result is that more children experience the joys of nature and that it creates a lifetime of interest and environmental stewardship.”
The PSA's, produced by Turbine for the USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council, will continue to air throughout the summer to encourage families to unplug, re-connect with nature, and get closer to their family.