PBS Kids Go! goes bye-bye as colorful branding revamp rolls out to stations

By Dru Sefton

PBS is dropping its PBS Kids Go! graphics and interstitial materials, created nearly a decade ago to signal to school-aged kids that public TV had programs for them, too. The move is part of a revamp of the on-air branding materials surrounding PBS’s children’s programs.

The new PBS Kids brand kicks off with the Oct. 7 launch of Peg + Cat, a preschool math-skills series from PBS and the Fred Rogers Co.

The PBS Kids

Member stations will receive a variety of brightly colored graphics in the revamped PBS Kids designs. (Image: PBS)

Public TV’s service to preschoolers — and the PBS Kids brand that accompanies its TV shows, program breaks and digital games — so overshadowed PBS Kids Go! that a recent research study found parents and kids have “very little recognition of what the PBS Kids Go! brand signifies,” said Lesli Rotenberg, g.m. of children’s programming.

Rotenberg worked to establish the PBS Kids Go! brand and build a multicasting children’s service around it in an earlier PBS job as senior v.p. of brand management. That proposal for a multicast service for older children didn’t fly, but the attempt to serve and appeal to school-aged kids did.

The latest qualitative and quantitative studies of children and parents, conducted by New York’s Geppetto Group in July and September 2011, found that “everyone knows PBS Kids,” Rotenberg said. By consolidating children’s programs under that brand, “we can aggregate a larger audience as well as tell our story more effectively — it makes economic sense, it makes logical sense.”

The research looked in-depth at how kids of various ages assess PBS online content and at their overall experience with PBS Kids Go!–branded content. Some 1,500 parents and 500 kids ages 2 to 9 participated.

The PBS Kids brand, featuring the perky Dot and Dash characters, has had the benefit of more airtime in making such a big impression on children and their parents. It launched in 1999 and was refreshed in 2008.

Rotenberg introduced PBS Kids Go! in 2004 with the goal of attracting older school-aged children, she said. At the time, research indicated that PBS wasn’t reaching many children older than 5.

Nielsen ratings available to PBS since 2009 provide evidence that PBS is indeed serving older children — often through shows targeting younger kids. The ratings break down audiences for each program by age and indicate that preschool-aged and school-aged kids enjoy each others’ shows, Rotenberg said.

Curious George, which targets preschoolers, is actually the highest-rated PBS Kids program among 4- to 8-year-olds, she said, and Wild Kratts, created for school-age children, does “incredibly well” among younger viewers.

“So we’ve actually achieved our goal of aging kids up — we’ve grown our audiences of school-age kids,” Rotenberg said. “The programming strategy is working. We are reaching a very broad audience of 2- to 8-year-olds.”

Backed by the ratings information and the Geppetto Group research, PBS knew what it wanted to achieve by rebranding. As Sara DeWitt, PBS Kids Digital v.p., told pubcasters at PBS’s annual meeting in May in Miami Beach, the look will be “playful and easily adaptable with ample opportunity for co-branding” by stations.

Sharon Philippart, senior director of PBS Kids marketing and communications, said several design firms submitted ideas, but internal candidate Chris Bishop, who has worked as creative director of PBS Kids since 2000, ultimately captured the winning look for the rebrand. Focus groups testing early creative ideas in April reacted positively to the changes.

The rebranding is still in early stages, Philippart said, with new graphic backgrounds, interstitials, IDs and promotional materials rolling out gradually over the next 18 months. Stations will receive a stylebook detailing the changes this fall.

Linda Simensky, children’s programming v.p., officially announced the rebranding in Miami Beach, noting that the PBSKidsGo.org site would also be retired. All of the children’s content on the site will move to the powerhouse PBSKids.org, which currently ranks as the second most-popular children’s site on the Web, according to eBizMBA. As of Aug. 1, it drew an estimated average of 4.6 million unique monthly visitors, making it second to Nick.com, which averages 4.8 million unique monthly visitors.

For its web analytic reports, eBizMBA averages data from three popular traffic counts (Alexa, Compete and Quantcast).

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org
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