Sesame Street meets Wall Street

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Don’t look for a new gecko Muppet named Gordon, but a kids TV icon is
opening up shop at the intersections of Sesame and Wall Streets.

Sesame Workshop, producer of noncom staple Sesame Street, is teaming
with the philanthropic arm of financial services firm Merrill Lynch on a new
"financial literacy" print initiative for 3-5 years olds as part of Merrill
Lynch’s ongoing IPO, or Investing Pays Off, campaign.

Merrill Lynch’s campaign has been endorsed by the Secretary of the Treasury,
according to Sesame Workshop, and has also been hailed by California Lieutenant
Governor Cruz Bustamante for helping young people in underserved California
communities gain important financial skills.

The Sesame Street campaign kicks off in 10 cities Sept. 10.

The initiative will include a magazine, Talking Cents, distributed to parents and other
caregivers, and a Web site component on www.sesamestreet.org .

As part of the campaign, which has English and Spanish elements, Elmo and the
Sesame Street gang will encourage children to trade toys "to better understand
the value of things," as well as encourage simple counting games with coins and
setting up their own businesses (a lemonade stand, for instance).

The goal, says Sesame Workshop President Gary Knell, "is not to promote
Merrill Lynch, stocks, bonds or other means of investment strategies to three
years olds." Instead, he says, it is to help kids learn a life skill and to help
close a deficit the government has identified, which is, he says, that "we are
raising a generation of children who are financial illiterates and who are
getting into problems with credit and spending beyond their limits."

Merrill Lynch spokeswoman Selena Morris concurred. "The important thing is
that it gives kids a head start in forming good financial habits early on. It is
clear through surveys that kids don’t know enough about the financial markets,
and information about the stock markets and how to save is not necessarily
something that is taught in schools."

Knell says the print materials will carry the Merrill Lynch logo, as would
any other underwritten campaign.

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