Thursday, 16 June 2011

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Yes, Akiko can...

Sesame Street according to Bangladesh

I love our June speaker.  I do.  She's my wife.  And she was talking about Sesame Street.  Who doesn't love Sesame Street, right?

But I also love what she had to say because it is so intrinsic to all creative industries.  Bill Bernbach (a famous, old ad guy if you're into that kind of thing) once said, "It's not just what you say that stirs people.  It's the way you say it."  Using her experience on Sesame Street to illustrate the effectiveness of engaging audiences, we learned the power of entertaining and engaging your audience.  Akiko compared it to hiding vegetables in something yummy in order to get your kids to eat healthy.  Sesame Street uses modeling, repetition, and humour to ensure that kids got a solid dose of learning with their laughter. 

Does it work?  Does it ever.  Today Sesame Street can be seen in more than 140 countries with more than 120 million viewers around the world.  In twenty countries, a local version has been created.  By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was the fifteenth-highest rated children's television show in the United States.

She also gave us a behind the scenes peek at the level of effort and detail invested in ensuring kids were drawn into this world of edutainment.  We learned about little things like making sure puppets always looked directly at the viewer and not off camera to "eye tests" where the focal point of young viewers was measured.

And Sesame Street isn't without its own controversy as they tackle tough subjects such as introducing Kami to their South Africa production, the first HIV positive muppet.  Akiko used this point to illustrate the value of locally relevant content.  I was very surprised to learn locally produced versions of Sesame had a higher level of engagement than dubbed US versions due to relatable and recognizable characters.

Just one of the thousands of
pieces of Sesame Street branded
merchandise available around the world
I'm certainly going to take a lesson from Sesame Street's mantra, "If you can't reach them, you can't teach them."


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