Working from home yesterday afternoon I happened to catch this FANTASTIC PROGRAMME on CBBC. Here is the premise: a group of bright kids, and a group of businessmen, compete on a new product design brief – in the episode I saw yesterday this was inventing a new kind of ice cream. The businessmen included a market researcher who I had seen speak at the industry conference about how he was down with the kids and involved celebrities like Roll Deep and Kano (and erm Ian McCulloch) in his new groovy research.

Anyway Beat The Boss does what I had thought impossible (in fact I had never thought of it at all!) – televised market research that is REALLY ENTERTAINING. The programme follows the stages of new product development quite faithfully – idea generation, market research, pack and product design, and then a product test in the marketplace (i.e. a poll of other kids as to which idea is best – they do not know who has created what, obviously).

The reason the programme works so well is i. the unformed enthusiasm of the kid team, whose ideas are rarely particularly clever but you can see PRECISELY why they’ve done it, and ii. the expert team’s attempts at empathy with their target market, which seem often to be blindingly off base (though quite clever). The ice cream episode – which ended up a very close thing – demonstrated these. The bosses had come up with the “RAP FREEZE”, a microphone-shaped cone with a hard candy shell to simulate the mic head and a ‘lyrics quiz’ in place of the traditional joke on a stick. This was actually a pretty impressive thing to have come up with quickly for a TV show, so good work the bosses. However, the kids had taken a more direct route – they had gone round canvassing other kids about the kind of sweets they liked, and then simply PUT THEM ALL IN A TUB with some ice cream.

The resulting “Cool Combo” looked very extremely horrible but I was still a bit disappointed when the bosses won (the first episode where this has happened, apparently). My disappointment was immediately mitigated by the unseemly and real glee said bosses displayed at having narrowly beaten a bunch of small children.

Here is the website for the show (presented by her off the Apprentice, a far better use of her skills than working for sweaty old Alan S). I would particularly enjoy seeing the ‘design a boardgame’ episode, in which the “experts” come up with an amazingly boring looking game based on the BTB show itself, involving gripping looking piles of cards marked “MARKET RESEARCH” and “PRODUCT TESTS”. The kids meanwhile create a game called Pyramid Plunder in which you are chased by mummies. Guess who wins!