There’s so much more to tweens than meets the iPad


A look at the audience behind the new CBBC rebrand

I was a free-range kid, growing up on a free-range poultry farm near Liverpool in the late 70s, early 80s: for me, a golden era of empowering, love-filled ‘benign neglect’ parenting.

Munching on Spangles & KP Discos whilst talking to heaven-knows-who on the CB radio; building dens out of the massive egg packing boxes; selling rose-petal & cochineal water to unsuspecting strangers as they walked by our wall; grabbing my Raleigh Commando and cruising down to the local park with my brother, pretending to be CHiPs California Highway Patrol (we both wanted to be "Ponch" Poncherello).

I had the best parents, I still do. They created clear limits and boundaries, but they gave my brother and me the freedom to explore and learn for ourselves. We ran wild and so did our imaginations. They allowed us to find what we loved and inspired us … and we took it from there.

When I began working on a repositioning and rebrand project with BBC for their ‘older’ kids channel - CBBC - I couldn’t help but reflect on this freedom to explore and to imagine.

On the face of it, our Year 5, 10 year old, audience of today seemed so very different from me, certainly much cooler than I had ever been. Of course, it was the omnipotence of technology that was palpable: they were multiscreen, multi-tasking digital natives.  Q. “What do you love?” A. ”Taking selfies, You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, #fails, #pranks, Beats by Dre headphones, iPads, iPads, iPads, Minecraft, Call of Duty, FIFA, Sky, Pretty Little Liars, Netflix, Zoella…”

Our own Consumer Lab research has revealed diverse impacts of this tech on kids and their families, for example on the school run 72% of parents are now vying with a device for their kids’ attention, and families who use the same messaging services their kids use, such as Snapchat & Whatsapp, stay in touch 8 times more with their children.

Not only are kids’ interactions with the real world, friends and families mediated across screens, platforms and devices, we are also seeing that their passions and hobbies are increasingly screen-based.

In their 2016 report, Childwise refer to this era being a ‘tipping point’, with children switching from conventional TV to spending time on-line: 7-16 year olds now spend 3 hours a day on-line, compared to 2 hours watching TV (down from 3 hours in 2000). They report that 60% watch TV content via a phone, tablet or laptop and 38% do most of their TV viewing on demand. Netflix was found to be more popular than any conventional television channel and You Tube was THE dominant destination for ‘funny’ content, music, ‘how to’ videos and watching TV.

But getting beyond the stats and talking to the audience was illuminating. They spoke with passion of the complex, dynamic and empowering brand worlds of You Tube, Minecraft, Bin Wheevils and Whyville. They explained why they really loved the books of Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, John Green, Rick Riordan and Derek Landy: because these books didn’t talk down to them, because it was OK to be ‘dark’ and because they helped them work through real stuff they were grappling with. In these worlds there were few rules, their imaginations were allowed to surpass the limits of the everyday and ordinary. Critically, these worlds were not dumbed down or patronising; instead kids were valued, cherished and respected.

And what of kids’ TV brands? Maybe not as loved nor with the cred of You Tube or Netflix, but our audience happily watched and played along with the fun and vibrant Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Disney and Citv. What did they make of CBBC? For them it had the all-important laughs, gags and silliness – but it was different, in a good way:

“CBBC is very imaginative and has a lot of courage and bravery and sometimes it’s a bit weird.”

“CBBC is inspiring but fun”

CBBC as a brand has more substance than its competitors”

(Source: BBC Marketing & Audiences Research)


CBBC offered them a bountiful, rich and stimulating bigger, wider world … one that made their TV born competitors seem somewhat thin and one-dimensional.

A metaphor that seemed to work with our audience was that ‘the others’ were more like McDonald’s and Nandos – cool and fun, but after eating you’re hungry again quite quickly; whereas CBBC was more like Spag Bol in which your Mum hides some carrot – not so cool, but … really yummy, satisfying and good for you without you realising!

CBBC is characterised not only by an inimitable sense of humour (ref. Class Dismissed, Danger Mouse and Hacker!), but in a world of kids’ channels that superserve fantasy and animation, CBBC keeps it real and is uniquely inspirational.

Not only with iconic shows such as Blue Peter and Newsround, but also with others, such as Horrible Histories, Operation Ouch, Absolute Genius, The Dengineers, Pocket Money Pitch, Cinemaniacs … And when we looked at the channel-defining drama, like The Dumping Ground, Wolfblood, The Next Step and Millie in the Middle, we found our audience being inspired by the issues that it dealt with. 

CBBC is a place where kids can relax, laugh and unwind but more than this it’s somewhere they could explore, be inspired, learn for themselves and let their imaginations run wild.  The CBBC audience are not passive viewers and ‘just kids’, they are the R&D department of the human race: kids at the top of their game, who have an innate curiosity, whose imagination knows no boundaries, whose ideas can make the real world extraordinary.

The CBBC brand has just entered a new era with a bold new identity that will become synonymous with a whole new audience. This audience may never know the joys of Spangles and a CB radio, but for them much greater joys and opportunities await.  Here’s to CBBC and their next generation of dreamers, creators and innovators.

Lisa Matchett. Head of Planning. Red Bee.

Red Bee help brands navigate the multiscreen world. Experts in video, social TV, content and design. See what we do and come say hi.@redbeecreative