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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Try to complete secret subtle missions

Can you sneak a message into a conversation without others knowing in this subtle group game?

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You’ll need

  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Large bowl or container

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples. 
  • Make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Prepare for the activity

  • This is a quick game you can play alongside another activity, game, or break. Everyone will try to sneak a certain word or topic into conversation without anyone else noticing, to help everyone think about how adverts or messages can influence people without them realising it. Decide what you’ll do alongside the activity. You could run it during a wide game, around a campfire, over lunch at camp or during some downtime, such as a snack break. 
  • Why not use this activity as an introduction to Advert savvy to continue thinking about the different times we can be influenced during the day?
  • Write down different words or topics on pieces of scrap paper and put them into your container. You could include random objects, famous people, or even different foods! You’ll need a piece of paper for everyone in the group.

Run the activity

  1. Gather everyone together and explain that everyone will try to sneak a certain word or topic into conversation without anyone else noticing. It’ll help you to think about how adverts or messages can influence people without them realising it. 
  2. Everyone should take it in turns to take a scrap of paper and read their word to themselves. They should make sure that no one else sees what their word or topic is.
  3. If anyone needs help reading their word (or understanding its meaning), they can ask the person leading the game or a young leader.
  4. Now, get started on the other activity. Make sure people have chance to interact or talk to as many different people as possible to have the opportunity to share their word or topic. Remind people they should try to be sneaky, so that other people don’t notice what their word or topic is. 
  5. After the main activity, everyone should gather in a circle. Can anyone guess what someone else’s word was?
  6. Let people take it in turns to guess until they’ve figured out everyone’s words. You should congratulate anyone who managed to get their word into conversation without anyone noticing!
  7. Explain that your subtle messages are just like the adverts we see every day. Sometimes you get messages from seeing or hearing adverts without realising it!
  8. Ask if anyone can think of any adverts they’ve seen or heard today on posters, on football shirts, TV, their phone or tablet, social media or the radio. Were they influenced to ask the people they live with about or want to buy anything because of an advert? Were any of the adverts subtle or harder to spot they were selling or influencing us to do something?


What did people think about this activity? Was it easy to figure out the secret words or topics other people were trying to sneak into the conversation?

See how many people couldn’t guess or managed to sneak in words that others didn’t notice.

Sometimes adverts can be like this. People see or hear messages about products or events every day, and sometimes they don’t even realise it.

Think together about some of the adverts you might have seen or heard during the day. Finish the session by spending a few minutes thinking of some different ways you could be more aware of the adverts and messages you see.

Can people come up with some ways to help each other decide which ones to pay attention to and which to try and ignore?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

  • Change the words or phrases you use in the game. The more specific or weird they are, the harder it’ll be to drop them into conversation without the other people knowing.
  • Think about the activity everyone will be doing while they complete the challenge. It might be easier to set it over a meal time or break, so that everyone has plenty of chances to chat.

Choose topics or words that everyone in the group knows. People could work in pairs if they’d be more comfortable chatting to others that way.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

  • If you enjoyed this activity, try Advert savvy to think some more about the different times we might see adverts in our daily lives. You could take a look at more money skills activities.