Editorial: Pragmatic Jowell's a friend for adland

With the obesity issue now firmly atop the political agenda, the ad industry needs all the allies it can get. Tessa Jowell has proved to be one and is being made to pay a heavy political price for it.

Rarely has a government minister been savaged so badly by a Commons committee as has the culture secretary, who has been derided for suggesting that agencies should channel their creativity into the promotion of healthy products.

Members of the Commons health select committee suggested Jowell is "rather naive" and they're probably right. Who would pay for such an initiative and how much impact would it have when set against the multimillion-pound budgets of the major food advertisers?

Nevertheless, Jowell has been prepared to lend a sympathetic ear to the industry's case when others have feigned deafness and closed their minds to any solution other than the knee-jerk reaction of a ban on snack food advertising to children.

Jowell, once a forceful advocate for a ban, has been persuaded by industry arguments of the potentially devastating effect on children's programming were food and drink commercials barred from appearing around them. In contrast, the initial scepticism of the health secretary, John Reid, about the effectiveness of a ban seems to be diminishing by the day.

For the moment, Jowell and Reid are presenting a united front, warning advertisers that Government action will surely follow any failure to clean up their act.

While Reid might have little compunction about going after the industry, the pragmatic Jowell would clearly do so with considerably greater reluctance. She may yet turn out to be a good friend of adland because, like all good friends, she won't shirk from telling it what it may not want to hear.