Ahead of National Get Outdoors Day on June 12, the USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council announced new public service advertisements (PSAs) from the Discover the Forest campaign. Since 2009, the Ad Council and USDA Forest Service’s Discover the Forest campaign has encouraged parents and caregivers to take their families out to the forest to experience and reconnect with nature. The new creative work highlights the power of authentic storytelling to showcase the value of the forest as a place where families can deepen their connection with each other and with the outdoors. The PSAs culminate in a singular ask: make the forest part of your family’s story.
“In these times, we are excited that so many families are visiting the outdoors and reconnecting with each other, themselves, and nature,” said Tinelle Bustam, Director, Conservation Education, Forest Service, State and Private Forestry at the USDA Forest Service. “We are deeply grateful to the storytelling artists for their depictions of the forests and family connection. We look forward to engaging families in making the forest part of their story through this campaign.”
This newest creative installment was developed pro bono by David&Goliath, in partnership with multidisciplinary artists Joe Cepeda and Shabazz Larkin. Cepeda and Larkin crafted culturally resonant stories, respectively, for Latino and Black audiences, which serve as the basis of the PSAs. “Our Colors,” written by Cepeda, illustrates how nature inspires art and links us through generations. Larkin’s story entitled “Am I A Tree?” showcases the lessons that humans can learn from trees about how to live and grow. Custom illustrations by Cepeda and Larkin also appear throughout the PSAs. The full suite of assets (including TV, radio, print, outdoor and digital banners) will be available in English and Spanish.
The creative aims to reach all parents and caregivers, with an emphasis on fostering a sense of connection to and belonging in nature among Black and Latino families. While participation in outdoor recreation has increased among Black and Hispanic Americans over the last decade, current participation rates still do not reflect our diverse population in the U.S., and Black and Hispanic Americans remain underrepresented outside.1
“Over the last year, we’ve seen the outdoors become a place of respite for families, and as we head into summer, we know many are eager to continue enjoying and exploring nature,” said Michelle Hillman, Chief Campaign Development Officer at the Ad Council. “This newest iteration of Discover the Forest amplifies authentic and impactful storytelling from two talented artists to help ensure that everyone can envision making the forest part of their family’s story.”
The latest iteration of Discover the Forest also includes a Digital Storybook activity. This new tool allows parents and caregivers to select one of the stories created by Cepeda and Larkin and upload their own family photographs, creating a unique digital memory book capturing their experiences in the forest. In addition to “Am I A Tree?” and “Our Colors,” the Digital Storybook includes two other stories from Larkin and Cepeda, respectively: “We’ve Got the World in Our Hands,” which explores our role as protectors and keepers of nature, and “Stories in the Stars,” which illustrates how we are connected to our ancestors through the stars.
“The stories I wrote for this campaign came partially through craft and partially from personal experience,” said Cepeda. “As a family, we have spent time out in the woods, in the desert and under starry skies. I hope audiences will be able to relate to the feelings my own family has experienced when we venture out – the perspective we get from looking out over a canyon or standing at the foot of a redwood tree. Nature reminds us that we’re stronger and more resourceful than we may realize, and we all need to do a better job of caring for the places we live.”
“My hope in writing these stories is two-fold,” said Larkin. “I hope people will find trust in their joy – to go to the forest with no other intention but to play. I also hope that this campaign reminds everyone that Earth is home for all humans. Little Black boys and girls need to know that the earth is our inheritance just as anyone else and protecting our inheritance is our work, too.”
“We wanted to take this campaign a step further than just creating another set of PSAs and really provide a genuine connection to the forest that would resonate with our target audience,” said Lixaida Lorenzo, Executive Creative Director, David&Goliath. “From this sentiment, Joe and Shabazz crafted these unique stories that our audiences can relate to in an immediate and visceral way. Stories that just don’t talk to them, but belong to them.”
Creative agency partner Wordsworth + Booth is developing additional radio assets to extend this new round of PSAs, with creative that also uses storytelling to demonstrate how the forest can bring imagination to life and allow families to connect in their own unique ways.
Across all PSAs, audiences are directed to DiscoverTheForest.org and DescubreElBosque.org, where they can search for nearby forests, parks and trails and where they’ll find ideas for outdoor-focused activities. The new PSAs will run nationwide in time and space donated by the media, per the Ad Council’s model.