With Nancy Drew and Raggedy Ann both celebrating significant birthdays in 2005, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing is giving the kidlit legends a licensing and branding makeover. And former BBC Americas senior VP of marketing and consumer products Bill Gaden has been recruited to lead the revamp efforts as VP of sales and subsidiary rights.
Building up the Nancy Drew merch program in preparation for the mystery-solver’s 75th anniversary will be Gaden’s first priority. A modest licensing program exists – highlighted by a CD-ROM game series from Her Entertainment. The product lineup will widen this month to include limited-edition branded apparel and backpacks (Gumshoe Girls) and new Her Entertainment computer games, building up to the release of four new Nancy Drew books in March.
Over the past 15 years, three new book series have come out of the Nancy Drew brand, with updated characters and stories to suit modern sensibilities. The last refresh happened in 1998. This time around, Nancy drives an enviro-friendly hybrid car, talks on a cell phone and recruits her techno-savvy chums to assist with modern sleuthing techniques such as web research. Although Nancy’s surroundings will not change, her River Heights neighbors will have more clearly defined characters and will interact without the unreal glaze of perfection that characterized the original series.
Leading up to the anniversary next year, Nancy Drew wall calendars (from Andrews McMeel) will hit shelves towards the end of this year, along with a graphic novel. Gaden is aiming to expand Nancy Drew’s licensee roster this year to include partners working in figurines and dolls, mass-market children’s spy and investigation games, home décor and paper goods such as journals, stationery and gift wrap.
Gaden plans to meet with Raggedy Ann licensor United Media soon to discuss next year’s 90th birthday celebration plans for the property, and The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins brands will be up for review in the coming months.
Although his initial charge is to develop new opportunities for S&S’s vintage properties, Gaden will also be exploring new revenue streams for future book properties the publisher is eyeing for acquisition. Working with the company’s editors, Gaden will push for deals that cover ancillary rights as well as publishing rights.