FROM TOOTHPASTE TO CEREAL, CZECHS FACE PROMO FREE-FOR-ALL

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PRAGUE-A Kellogg Co. promotion in which representatives interrupted grade school classes to hand out free boxes of Rice Krispies and Coco Pops last month left a bad taste in teachers' mouths at at least one school here. But Colgate-Palmolive Co. doesn't expect to raise any eyebrows with a similar free toothpaste promotion slated for September.

Welcome to the brave new world of advertising and marketing, Czech Republic-style.

In Kellogg's monthlong sampling campaign the company representatives barged into classes unannounced under the purported auspices of the government. While it upset some teachers, the promotion caused suprisingly little furor here, where laws coverning advertising are few and consumers have formulated few opinions on what constitutes appropriate marketing.

"They played a little trick on me," said Ludmila Fiserova , principal of Zs nem Svobody, one of Prague's many elementary schools, who said she now wishes she forbade Kellogg's entrance. The "trick" she refers to is a friendly letter from the Czech Ministry of Education, tacitly permitting the campaign by giving individual school principals the chance to allow or reject the visit.

Ms. Fiserova  said she took the certificate as a government endorsement of the campaign.

Both the Education Ministry's writer and signer of the letter said it was actually meant as a polite but dismissive response to a request for endorsement from Kellogg. The letter did not prohibit the campaign, and had kind words for the marketer.

A Ministry official said: "We simply politely answered the letter."

"There are a lot of companies trying to get at schoolchildren," said Ms. Fiserov .

One is Colgate-Palmolive, which intends to promote dental hygiene and its brand of toothpaste. Colgate, however, is expected to meet less resistance since it is approaching its program, themed "Bright Smiles, Bright Future," with a more educational bent, holding half hour seminars in assembly settings or class with a video presentation and books on dental health care.

"Most of the educational materials are very lightly branded," said Richard Auchincloss, marketing director at Colgate's regional office here. The promotion campaign is handled in-house, although Colgate does have an agency in Prague, Young & Rubicam.

Mr. Auchinclosss said the Colgate program is set to run in Hungary, Poland, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela as well.

Kellogg-which usually focuses on point-of-sale advertising from Leo Burnett, Praguealso maintains its campaign is merely meant to educate children on the value of nutrition and to introduce them to the previously foreign concept of cereal.

"We do do missionary work in showing them [Czech children] how to prepare and eat a ready-made cereal product," said a Kellogg spokesman in Battle Creek, Mich. "That would include opening the box, pouring the cereal into a bowl and pouring milk on the cereal."

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