Television and newspaper advertisements by the Department for Education and Skills will be aimed at attracting people into training to improve their levels of literacy and numeracy.
The "Get On" campaign is due to start in newspapers today, and on television next week. It will run though the autumn.
Its theme is that basic skills problems create "gremlins" which crop up in people's daily lives but these difficulties can be overcome through training, typically over just a few weeks. The gremlins are then seen to go away as people's improved numeracy and literacy skills enable them to meet challenges others might take in their stride, such as working out their personal finances or using a train timetable.
"We have done much to make sure that children are taught the basics in school, through the literacy hour and the numeracy strategy, but for too long the problems faced by adults have been ignored," said Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary.
"This Government has made tackling the problem of adult basic skills one of its key pledges. The Get On campaign aims to encourage people with numeracy and literacy problems to sign up for training which can help them and aims to raise awareness of adult basic skills issues."
The Government, in conjunction with the Learning and Skills Council, has stated that basic skills are a top education priority, in the light of the Claus Moser report, which found that seven million adults in the UK struggle with basic literacy and numeracy - among one of the worst rates in the developed world.
It is estimated that 20 per cent of adults fall below the level of literacy and numeracy which is expected of the average 11-year-old. As well as reducing earning potential and increasing the risk of unemployment, these skills deficiencies can reduce the ability to carry out routine tasks and use public services, as well as affecting the competitiveness of industry.
The DFES has allocated pound;1.5 billion over the next three years to tackle the problem. The campaign follows what the Government sees as a successful "first strike" at tackling the poor basic literacy and numeracy skills. Almost two-thirds of the first 1,915 candidates passed new-style adult literacy tests based on the Moser recommendations, ministers announced this week.