They fear the European Commission is ready to bow to pressure to ban alcohol advertising because of what is seen as its role in encouraging alcohol abuse. They are worried that some food promotion could also fall victim in the fight against obesity.
Now top clients, agency chiefs and senior media executives will meet in Brussels next June to look at how an effective Europe-wide self-regulation system can be achieved using the UK as a model.
The plan was announced this week by Christopher Graham, the chairman of the European Advertising Standards Alliance and the director-general of the Advertising Standards Authority.
Graham described the initiative as "a great leap forward" in the development of self-regulation.
Sir Niall Fitzgerald, the Unilever chairman and chief executive, is backing the initiative. It is a response to warnings by David Byrne, the European commissioner responsible for consumer affairs, that the ad industry must plug the gaps in the self-regulatory system if it is to prove it can do its job properly.