Looking Back at Scholastic’s Transmedia Efforts for 39 Clues

January 31, 2010 · By Michael Andersen in Features, Info, Update 

39cluesbooksOn September 9th, 2008 Scholastic published The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and marked the beginning of Scholastic’s 10-book experiment in transmedia publishing. On February 2nd, Scholastic is releasing the seventh installment in the series, The 39 Clues: The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis. February 2nd will also mark the premiere of The Viper’s Nest audio book and the corresponding set of collectible puzzle cards in Card Pack 3: The Rise of the Madrigals.

39 Clues tells the story of two children, Amy and Dan Cahill, who are thrust into a global hunt for clues that will reveal the secret to the Cahill family’s power. The series is a cross between The Westing Game and The Amazing Race as the two children compete against members of four branches of the Cahill family to uncover the secret histories of famous Cahills including Benjamin Franklin, Anastasia Romanov, and Amelia Earhart. Although the series initially portrays their competition as cutthroat caricatures of their respective family houses, the series gradually reveals the complex motives of their fellow competitors.

While the story is primarily told through the books, each novel serves as a launching pad for further exploration, as a number of clues are hidden within each book’s pages. For instance, in The Maze of Bones, a series of apparently misnumbered pages spells out a secret message that aids the reader in solving a puzzle on one of the six collectible cards that came with the book. By going to the 39 Clues website, the reader can complete a puzzlesolving mission culminating in an online game that explains the message. Alternatively, by buying and solving puzzle cards expansion packs from the series, players can discover the 39 clues for themselves and reveal more of the Cahill family history. The story also branches through products ranging from a board game to Madrigal Maze, an iPhone application.

Since this project was developed through the Scholastic Lab for Informal Learning, Scholastic retains all rights to the 39 Clues intellectual property. By assigning multiple authors to the series, the publication schedule allows for all 10 books to be released over the course of two years alongside a bevy of ancillary products. Perhaps this explains the series’s comprehensive transmedia exposure. Scholastic assembled materials to help teachers using 39 Clues in the classroom, and libraries have organized 39 Clues discussion sessions “to attract a new crew of young patrons through their doors to meet, share, and sleuth to solve the fantasy adventure as a team.”

To promote the release of Book 7, Scholastic teamed up with Post cereals to create the “Race to Win” Sweepstakes, where four lucky families will win a chance to compete in a 39 Clues Scavenger Hunt for a top secret ‘bonus’ prize. Previously, Scholastic also teamed up with Amtrak to distribute two million branded ticket jackets alongside dining car placemats and seatback signage advertising a 39 Clues branded sweepstakes for a trip for four to anywhere Amtrak travels in the United States.

Expanding the excitement swirling around the franchise, Scholastic also convinced celebrity 39 Clues fan Whoopi Goldberg to host live webcast interviews with 39 Clues authors. DreamWorks Studios, meanwhile, acquired movie rights for The 39 Clues, with Steven Spielberg and Jeff Nathanson rumored to be attached to the project, allowing the franchise to live on long after the release of Book 10 in August 2010.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Looking Back at Scholastic’s Transmedia Efforts for 39 Clues”

  1. Social Marketer | Blog | Transmedia Storytelling for Social Marketers: A Sample Campaign on October 19th, 2010 2:50 pm

    [...] media (e.g., a movie, a graphic novel, an audiobook). Beyond using transmedia for the sheer joy of telling a story, this approach is now often used to promote television shows and movies, as well as marketing [...]

  2. SXSW Report: Transmedia and Alternate Reality Game Marketing | Publishing Perspectives on February 6th, 2012 2:23 pm

    [...] a given story, as well as to promote the book and engage readers. Scholastic has done both the 39 Clues series as well as its new game based on Trackers by Patrick Carman. A game based on German bestseller [...]

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