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Scholastic Hoping to Recapture Imagination with Rebooted Clifford

For more than a decade, Clifford the Big Red Dog has been a delight for young readers and a mainstay in elementary school classrooms and libraries. But, as more choices become available, and smaller screens begin to take up more time for younger and younger children, Clifford and his crew fell off a bit.

Recognizing this trend, Scholastic Entertainment, a branch of the literature company that publishes the Clifford books, has partnered with Amazon and PBS to produce and broadcast a reboot of the classic cartoon show.

In pre-press and other releases for the program, there are several key cultural points that are made clear, in an effort to connect with a very specific target market: parents and media specialists who are generally responsible for introducing kids to Clifford in the first place. The messaging is subtle, but it’s clear in its connection points and target audience. For example, here’s one media quote pulled from news about the reboot: “The new show offers more diversity among the human characters…”

This has become a hallmark of more modern educational cartoon programs. While, in the previous iteration of Clifford, there was some diversity among the canine characters, the human characters tended to be more of a “type” than a representation of a more diverse society. Addressing this directly, and speaking to consumers who are likely to be concerned about this is a smart move, given the intended target market.

From there, the releases get into more of the nuts and bolts of what viewers – and the parents who will serve as gatekeepers for the kids – can expect: “Emily Elizabeth, the 7-year-old owner (of Clifford) will be the POV character… Each episode will include an original song…”

This tells parents and educators a few things. First, the lead character’s gender and age, which helps to focus the ultimate target market. Second, that the show will be about the lives of these children, and that it will include both story and songs. This further delineates the sort of kids who might be most interested in watching this show.

Using this information, parents can explain the show to kids who might not be familiar by saying there will be “adventures, songs, and a friendly big red dog…” Meanwhile, these same parents and educators will also walk away from the PR about this reboot comfortable that the program will focus on “positive life lessons” specifically “character and empathy,” courtesy of Emily, Clifford, and their respective friends, both human and canine.

The PR related to this release wins, because it not only directly addresses the all-important gatekeepers, but also because it gives these people simple, specific, connective messages they can pass on to the actual target market.