Editorial: Ad industry is moving up Brown's political agenda

There's a new, less smiley, face in Number 10 Downing Street. In the past decades, governmental policy has rarely had a direct impact on the advertising industry - by design. But there are signs, already, that under Gordon Brown, the business is going to feel itself rising up the political agenda.

Indeed, he's already cast his beady financial eye over the cost of government communications, and noted that COI's adspend could be cut if the digital medium is used properly. This will most keenly be felt in the sales departments of the UK's newspaper publishers, where recruitment advertising will escape to the online world.

In addition, Brown's government has noted that young people, so often the target of COI work, can be reached with online campaigns. It cites MySpace and YouTube as the viable alternatives to television.

In terms of self-regulation, there are no immediate signs Brown will threaten advertising's current position. But he has come out supporting Compass, the left-of-centre lobby group chaired by a former aide, Neal Lawson. Compass is considering extreme measures to protect children, extending the food ad ban to internet pop-ups, and even talking about a ban on all advertising to children under 12, full stop.

The appointment of Ed Balls as the minister for schools and children is also important. Never before have the interests of children been given ministerial status, so it's likely the new government is putting the protection of children at the centre of its policy. It indicates that the current squeeze on advertising foodstuffs to children is going to get tighter.

But there is some good news. The appointment of James Purnell as the culture secretary means somebody with a robust knowledge of advertising and the media is going to be at the centre of policy-making.

One of his first actions when he was appointed the minister for media and tourism two years ago was to visit a handful of ad agencies to hear their views about what needs to be done. He believes adland should adopt a tough voluntary code towards food advertising, but is nevertheless keen to acknowledge the success of the UK's advertising industry.