April, 2001: Bob the Builder had just reached U.S. shores, debuting on the Nick Jr. television channel in January. In just three months, the ever-cheerful Bob – whose catch phrase is “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!” – had become Nickelodeon’s most successful new show ever, with 12 million viewers. United Kingdom-based owners HIT Entertainment were planning a Bob Blitz, slapping Bob’s name and likeness on everything from stickers to action figures. Our point in talking about Bob? Here was a preschool-age role model for construction, one tailor-made to promote the positives about our industry.
Today: Once you’ve reached float status at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, what else is there? Not only did Bob have his own float, but his ever-helpful sidekick Wendy also had one. And Bob the Builder Live – a stage show supervised by the production manager for Rolling Stones and U2 tours – is due to debut this month in Nashville, the first date in a national tour.
Bob even upstaged Santa this past December in the United States, serving as grand marshal of the Niagara Falls Santa Claus Parade.
Bob has been very, very good to his creator, producers and owners, reaching cult status in the United Kingdom, where his show first aired. Bob creator Keith Chapman has raked in almost $8 million so far in royalties. HIT Entertainment quadrupled its profits in 2002 to more than $43.8 million, half of that attributable to Bob TV rights, videos and merchandise.
Bob the global brand is now seen in 140 countries. As Sloan Cameron, HIT’s executive producer of the Bob stage show tours, told the Melbourne, Australia, Herald Sun: “This show is about a very likable character, machines and construction sites. What’s not to like?”
HIT held its breath after September 11th, but the versatile Bob proved even more popular, with retailers running out of Bob Halloween costumes a month later.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers has Bob the Builder Story Times, which allow Bob fans to enjoy stories and crafts inspired by the show. And if books aren’t enough, kids can be surrounded by a virtual Bob universe, complete with Bob underwear, luggage, lunch boxes, dinnerware, backpacks and bedding.
The promotional potential of Bob has not been ignored by construction associations in the United Kingdom, which have adopted him as a mascot. But Bob can get zinged by professional groups, too. In Queensland, Australia, safety officials cited him for unsafe job practices, including riding his backhoe Scoop standing up. (Better re-check Scoop’s operator’s manual, Bob!)
The downside to all this Bob mania? That every guy in construction with the first name of Robert gets called you-know-what.