When Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues first premiered in September 1996, the series took preschool programming by storm with its live-action host, highly interactive format and lovable furry friend, Blue.
Now, the live-action/animated show is back to engage and empower a new generation of children when Blue’s Clues and You! premieres this November.
For co-creator Traci Paige Johnson, who also voices Blue, the decision to revive the show was simple and due, in part, to the current landscape of television.
“There is just so much out there,” Johnson said. “People were realizing the benefit of reboots like Will and Grace and Roseanne. People wanted something that they knew of already.”
But more importantly, it was the life stage of Blue’s Clues’ original audience that made the timing ideal.
“Kids who grew up with Blue’s Clues are starting their own families and wanting to share and pass that tradition down,” Johnson said.
That tradition includes iconic elements from the series—such as the Thinking Chair and Mail Time, and beloved characters such as Tickety Tock, Slippery Soap, Shovel, Pail, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper—all of which are included in the reboot’s first teaser (above). It also reinstates the original concept of asking preschoolers to help find clues, followed by praise that they worked hard and they “sure are smart.”
As the reboot took shape, Nickelodeon’s in-house marketing team decided to lean into the components—and audience—that made it famous. That’s the inspiration behind the following “commercial,” which introduces the modernized Handy-Dandy Notebook.
Inspired by Apple’s promotional commercials, the spot highlights the item’s new wireless blue crayon, smartphone technology, emails and video calls. Running only on social, the spot was designed to engage its millennial audience while adding a fun spin to the original item.
“This was made for people who grew up on [the show]—to let them smile and be charmed,” said Anne Mullen, executive vice president, Nickelodeon preschool brand creative and marketing. “We don’t want to encourage [kids] to have phones too early. But it’s kind of fun. It’s a handy-dandy notebook.”
Nickelodeon also kept its original audience in mind when selecting its new host, Joshua (Josh) Dela Cruz. Because of the show’s interactive format, which was largely inspired by game shows during its conception, the ability to engage with children through the screen became the “special sauce” of the show, Johnson noted.
That’s why Nickelodeon documented and shared the process that led to discovering Josh.
“When you leave the original fan behind, they can be upset,” Mullen said. “They want to know you didn’t do their show ‘dirty.’ And really, we wanted them to feel part of the process.”
Despite the decision to appeal to millennials, Nickelodeon is well aware of the target audience for Blue’s Clues and You: preschoolers, parents and teachers.
“We want them to play Blue’s Clues,” Mullen said. “We want parents and teachers—who may be new to the property—to understand that [the show] is about building the self-esteem of preschoolers… Of course, it’s nice to have millennials crying [from excitement], but we can’t spend too much of our time on that.”
To introduce Josh to its target audience, Nickelodeon developed a series of spots, which debuted on social, YouTube and on-air, that showcase his charisma, kindness and musical talent.
“We want them to fall in love with Blue and to be incredibly engaged by Josh, who is really different than Steve and Joe. He is a really different kind of performer… Josh has some fantastic strengths. So [the creators] cultivated that in how they created the show. And we’ve cultivated in our work and our campaign,” Mullen said.
That campaign spans nursery rhymes, a Halloween music video, and updated songs—all of which feature the new handy-dandy guitar, created especially for Josh.
In addition to the spots and ancillary content, Nickelodeon is amping up the series’ interactivity with a play-along version of the show, available on the Noggin app.
Launching with the series premiere, the play-along videos will allow kids to explore Blue’s Clues by tapping, touching or swiping to navigate through enhanced learning experiences, all featuring Josh and Blue. While serving as education-based entertainment, the goal of the app, in conjunction with the series, is to remind kids at home that they are invited to participate.
“And that’s something Josh and Blue are gonna do with you every single time you tune in. You’re part of it,” Mullen added.
Once Blue’s Clues and You! launches, Nickelodeon plans to continue, and even ramp up, Blue’s presence on TV. On Thursday, Nickelodeon announced that the playful pup will return to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade as a 22-foot tall float. Josh will make an appearance alongside Blue and 31 pounds of glitter, Nickelodeon said in a statement.
“We’re going to continue to drive pop-culture moments for the show that the parents and the kids can enjoy… The holidays will be blue,” Mullen said.
In the end, the goal for Nickelodeon’s nostalgia-driven campaign is to re-engage its old audience while captivating new kids from all backgrounds, countries and abilities.
“I just feel so honored to have the opportunity, again, to share Blue with the world and with another generation,” Johnson concluded.
Blue’s Clues and You!, created by Johnson, Todd Kessler, and Angela C. Santomero premieres Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.