Peppa Pig and the unintended audience

If you’ve hung out with anyone under the age of four recently, you’ll have come into contact with one of the biggest brands to come out of the UK in ages*: Peppa Pig.

In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a cartoon on Channel 5. I don’t know a single toddler who isn’t obsessed with it. And the three men who created it are really bringing home the bacon (sorry); the show is now worth hundreds of millions of pounds, not to mention the merchandise (Peppa Pig duvet cover, anyone?).

What’s the secret of Peppa’s success? I have a theory. Parents are the ones who decide what their kids can and can’t watch, especially when they’re very young. And parents love Peppa, so they let their kids watch it.

Why do parents love it? Because it’s funny and clever and slightly arch. The creators know how tedious most kids’ TV can be for adults; the only remotely entertaining thing about In The Night Garden is marvelling at how much Iggle Piggle looks like David Cameron. So Peppa’s writers throw in little treats now and again to keep mum and dad happy.

I actually snorted with laughter when Peppa’s French pen pal, Delphine Donkey, asks the hapless, bumbling Daddy Pig, ‘Are English split infinitives a form of irregular verb or past pronoun?’ I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of another show aimed at two-year-olds that makes jokes out of obscure grammar references.

What’s so clever about Peppa Pig is that it’s written for its unintended audience (parents) as well as its intended one (kids). And sometimes business writing has an unintended audience, too; competitors, as well as shareholders, read annual reports. Employees, as well as customers, read case studies.

In short, writing with your audience in mind is always a good thing. Writing for your unintended audience as well – now that’s really clever.

*Probably.

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