But a big bear with a shovel? Absolutely.
What began as war propaganda transitioned easily to the postwar era as the West boomed, subdivisions sprouted in fire country and television brought Smokey's message into the nation's living rooms.
But can a retirement-age icon stay relevant in today's frenetic media landscape?
Last year, Smokey was one of 26 advertising characters nominated for induction into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. When the public online vote was tallied, the Geico Caveman and the Serta Sheep got in. Smokey was snubbed.
Hilary Hamer's job is to breathe new life into Smokey. She is a senior vice president with the global advertising and marketing firm DraftFCB, which has handled the Smokey account pro bono from its Southern California office since the beginning.
"It's the account I'm most proud of," said Hamer, 47, who also works on campaigns for Taco Bell and Del Monte pet products. "When I tell people outside the office I work with Smokey Bear, they get very excited and want to know all about it."
She acknowledges that keeping in vogue a character that dates to the Roosevelt administration is challenging, particularly among the 25- to 34-year-olds who cause the majority of non-natural fires.
Hamer and her team spent two years developing Smokey's latest campaign, which began airing last month. Smokey, who looks as if he's been spending a lot of time in the gym, shape-shifts into human form in the commercials. He admonishes a slacker to snuff out his campfire in one spot; in another, Smokey calls out a fool who had tossed his cigarette into the brush.
The result is a serious message wrapped in the knowing banter of a light beer commercial.
"We wanted to bring him into the pop culture of today," Hamer said. "Even though it's his 65th birthday, we don't want people to think of him as a 65-year-old bear. We want him to be seen as a very cool bear."