Why Channel 4 revived 90s icon Smash Hits magazine

To ensure its comedy hit Derry Girls went out with a bang, Channel 4 masterminded the return of iconic music mag Smash Hits to take fans back to the 90s.

After a three-year break, Channel 4’s hit comedy Derry Girls was back for a final series. Despite already being a huge success, the broadcaster wanted to reconnect viewers to the characters and avoid any misattribution with the first two seasons on Netflix.

The team identified an audience of 11.1 million UK comedy fans and 10.4 million people loving the show’s 90s revival. The aim was to maintain brand attribution over Netflix, grow the Derry Girls’ audience and replicate the successful series two launch.

The campaign centred on a revival of the iconic Smash Hits magazine. Working with Bauer Media, the show’s creators and original Smash Hits writers, the one-off Derry Girls special issue featured everything from Grandpa Joe’s musical verdicts judged on a cream horn scale to Sister Michael’s divine advice column.

Some 100,000 magazines were released nationwide, with a further 40,000 distributed with issues of Closer and Heat. An outdoor campaign featured a supersized pull-out poster typical of any 90s-bedroom wall. Channel 4 also ran a content hub on TikTok featuring digital articles, trailers and a filter allowing fans to become cover stars, while partnering with Spotify to create a classic mix tape.

Derry Girls season three smashed targets, claiming an average audience of 2.9 million, double the slot average (55%) and share (54%). Share among 16- to 34-year-olds (29.1%) was the best of any Channel 4 series, up 39% on season two and 28% on season one.

Not only did the broadcaster, winner of the Marketing Week Award for Sport, Gaming and Entertainment, help drive 12.7 million views of Derry Girls to date, 61% of viewers attributed the series to Channel 4 versus Netflix (2%).