US food manufacturing giant General Mills is bucking the current trend by launching its largest-ever ad campaign targeting children.

The company says its Choose Breakfast strategy is a health initiative to persuade youngsters of the importance of the first meal of the day.

General Mills, whose breakfast cereal brands include Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs, will peddle the proposition that children who eat breakfast perform better in school, have fewer disciplinary problems and are less likely to be obese than those who eat little or no cereal.

Chief marketing officer Mark Addicks says it is "unique in the industry because it is the first nonbranded advertising campaign of this scale".

The ads will tack 10-second trailers onto the end of commercials showing kids who claim to have been energized by eating breakfast.

The campaign has been welcomed by the Children's Advertising Review Unit as "not only responsible, but commendable".

The rising tide of obesity among US children has increased the clamour for legislation against food companies' marketing of sugary and fatty foods. Last year, General Mills started making all its cereals with whole grain and introduced reduced-sugar versions of many popular children's varieties.

Rival Kraft Foods announced earlier this year it would stop airing TV ads aimed at six to eleven-year-olds for some of its sweetest brands.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff