Editorial: New rules can restore public's faith in adland

Advertising regulators knew they were stepping into a minefield by suggesting that sexual health services should be cut some slack when it comes to promoting themselves. And so it has proved.

"Abortion ads on television," the Daily Mail's splash story screamed. Doubtless Middle England hailed the news as yet further evidence of a country having lost its moral compass. Add to this the proposal that a 9pm watershed ban on the TV advertising of condoms be lifted and the perception of vanished family values is complete.

The reality, of course, will be very different. TV channels won't be awash with primetime ads for abortion clinics and Durex combining to fuel teenage promiscuity. Even if they were, public outrage would quickly put a stop to it.

It's easy to forget that advertising has to reflect the world as it is and not as people would like it to be. A Britain in which all teenagers were fully aware of the perils of casual sex would be wonderful. But they aren't. And until they are, anything that can help keep down the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies has to be a good thing.

The fact is that the shortlived hysteria generated by ads for abortion clinics and condoms is masking what will turn out to be much more significant proposals being put forward by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice.

The bar on advertisers exaggerating the environmental benefits of their products isn't just vital to prevent consumers being left confused by a plethora of conflicting information. It's also necessary to stop the Government stepping in with very restrictive regulation. Nor would anybody argue with the fact that children need the best possible protection against unscrupulous marketers prepared to exploit them.

With goodwill on all sides, the amended codes will deliver these things. And it is they that will help preserve the public's trust in the industry long after the rumpus over some condom ads on daytime TV has been forgotten.