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Advertisers sweet talk their way into project

IF you were setting up a campaign to teach primary children about the tricks of advertising, the last people you might ask for help would be makers of toys and chocolates.

Such concerns, though, have not affected the Media Smart initiative, whose educational campaign backers include toy-makers Mattel and Hasbro and sweet giant Cadbury Trebor Bassett.

UK primary schools are being sent a teaching pack in January featuring national curriculum-relevant lesson plans, an advice sheet for parents - and a video designed to make youngsters question the motives of adverts.

Organisers insist that the move is not a cynical attempt to advertise its backers' products by stealth, although a list of supporters will appear in teaching materials. But those hoping Media Smart will encourage children to ignore adverts will be disappointed.

The key message of the schools' pack is: "Adverts tell you about things you can buy in shops, but no one has enough money to buy everything, so you have to choose."

The National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations agreed to be a partner in the media literacy project after hearing complaints from parents about the hard-sell tactics of some toy advertisers.

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the NCPTA, agreed the organisations involved made strange bed-fellows. But she said: "There is no point cosying up to people who do not have any effect and these organisations have a tremendous influence. This is an excellent opportunity for us to give parents feedback and the advertisers will not be able to ignore us."

A spokeswoman for Media Smart said: "The advertising business has a long record of responsible advertising to children. Media Smart continues this tradition."

However, Media Smart is likely to face an uphill struggle. A study by Sheffield University last year found that most six-year-olds believed television adverts were for tea or toilet breaks.

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