The advertising industry is embroiled in a row with the Government over a strong attack by the chancellor, Gordon Brown, on the pre-Christmas blitz promoting presents for children.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has written to Brown asking him to clarify his remarks amid fears that they might be a weakening of Labour's previous opposition to European Union moves to ban ads aimed at children.
Brown said: 'I have always been struck by how unfair it is at Christmas when thousands of children get the presents they wanted, yet others watch television adverts in the knowledge they can never have those things. I think it is an unfair society that is endlessly pushing these TV adverts on young people.'
Rupert Howell, the IPA's president, replied: 'I am astonished someone who is in charge of the economy should display such economic illiteracy. Competition is good, advertising fuels competition, so advertising is good.'
He described Brown's comments as 'student politics' and warned that they could undermine Britain's ad industry, which is one of the best in the world.
Howell cited studies suggesting that prices were 30 per cent higher in the UK than in Sweden, which has implemented a ban and is leading the EU moves to outlaw children's ads. He said pestering of parents by children is less apparent in Spain, which has the most liberal ad regime, than it is in the highly regulated Sweden.
Leaders of the Advertising Association were also worried by the chancellor's attack. However, they and the IPA hope his remarks will not change the more pro-advertising approach from the two Whitehall departments responsible for advertising and broadcasting - Trade and Industry and Culture, Media and Sport respectively.
The industry's fight against Sweden's plans to amend the EU's broadcasting directive in 2002 was boosted by a study published by the Social Affairs Unit. Adrian Furnham, the professor of psychology at University College London, said: 'Parents have nothing to fear from advertising.'