Bob sighed when he thought of all the work he had to do, but he agreed. After all, Bob and Wendy made a good team. “First of all,” Wendy said, “I’m going to show you what’s going to happen in National Construction Week.” Bob was pleased – last year, he had been the star of the show. “Everyone wants you to attend their events,” said Wendy. “That nice Mr Raynsford wants to shake your hand, and you’re going to be guest of honour at the launch of the whole week at Lord’s on 3 April. Then you’re going to Exeter City football club to play a penalty shoot-out with some local schoolchildren, then you’re off to Belfast to meet lots of children there, too.”
First of all, Wendy phoned Nick Raynsford, who said he was thinking of getting Bob in to help fix the government’s anti-cowboy policy. “I haven’t seen Bob recently,” he said, “I hope he’s up in Birmingham getting quality marked!”
Then she phoned the organisers of the events. Gina Martin is the Construction Industry Training Board’s educational adviser for the South-west. She organised the penalty shoot-out. “We had the football idea at the end of last year. It’s been tricky to arrange, but Bob’s visit gives us a great vehicle for publicity.” Anne Mcgivern, from the CITB in Northern Ireland, explained that Bob was going to encourage primary school children taking part in a “job-sampling” day. “It’s his first time in Northern Ireland, and we’re really pleased to get him over.”
But Bob was still feeling down. “Perhaps these people just wanted any old children’s TV character to visit them. Perhaps they didn’t really want me at all,” he said in a gloomy voice. “Nonsense,” said Wendy, and to prove it, she phoned David Scott. He is managing director of Rainbow Productions, which arranges bookings for Bob and other children’s characters. “We’re a good barometer of what people like, and Bob’s become a modern classic very quickly,” he said. “He’s booked every day for the Easter holidays. Bob’s in our top three – he’s up there with the Simpsons and Rugrats.”
Bob was feeling a little more cheerful, so Wendy decided to tell him about some of his younger friends, like the children at Blundells Nursery in Battersea, London. The principal, Susan Stephens, wrote to Bob about them. “The series was an instant hit. All the children love him, boys and girls equally. They’ve got hard hats in the dressing-up area, and there’s lots of role play.
As soon as they make some rubber building materials, I’ll buy some.” Mrs Stephens is hoping that all 78 children, aged from 18 months to five years, will soon be able to work on a construction-themed project.
Then Wendy reminded Bob about the success of his merchandising. In the past year, Bob’s fans have bought £12m of toys, clothing, stationery, toiletries, gifts and accessories. Next year, there are going to be interactive games and electronic learning toys made by IQ Builders. And every month, 80 000 people buy Bob the Builder magazine. Bob cheered up even more when he thought of all those children growing up the with right idea about the industry he loved.
Can we fix it? Yes we can! Clients and shareholders need to hear this message
Jim Armstrong, Chairman, Laing
Now Wendy needed to show her boss just one more very special example of his popularity. “Some of your fans are even younger than the nursery children – one is only three months old, and he’s called Bob!” The baby’s grandmother, Christine Waters, was on the phone from East Grinstead, where her husband Richard and son Adrian run Waters Construction. “We definitely chose to call the baby Bob because of the influence of the character. He’s got no chance of doing anything else when he’s older!”
Bob was thrilled to think that his name would be passed on to another Bob the Builder. Another Bob who would be just as polite, reliable and clever as him. But then, a worrying thought struck him. What if he was really only a children’s character? “What if grown-ups don’t take me seriously?” he asked Wendy. But Wendy just smiled, because she knew the answer.
First of all, she called Bob Haycock, the South-west construction director of housebuilder Beazer Homes. This Bob had made a special study of the real Bob, and thought of him as a role model. “He’s a first-class tradesman, he always wears his hard hat, and he’s always the customer’s champion. He has the right tools for the job, and he never has to come back another day,” said Beazer’s Bob, who finds that his friends and colleagues are starting to call him Bob the Builder!
Wendy had a few more surprises up her sleeve. An e-mail had arrived at Bob’s web site – www.bobthebuilder.org – from Jim Armstrong, the chairman of famous construction company Laing. It said: “The construction industry should learn the jingle ‘Can we fix it? Yes we can!’ Clients, employees and shareholder who want a different industry need to hear this message.”
Bob was very pleased.
Then the producer of his TV show, Jackie Cockle of HIT Entertainment, rang to say he was the most successful new character in the pre-school market and a big hit with adults, too. “We were really chuffed when Bob was adopted by the construction industry. I was even asked to talk on Radio 4 about how he was such a good role model for the industry.”
Catch Bob and his friends at National Construction Week events around the country.