Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 9

You had to feel sorry for the guy.

It took a brave soul to stand up as an advocate of the advertising world and face an audience that was pretty much pre-programmed to disagree with anything he said.

It was, however, perhaps unwise of him to use health policy jargon such as 'evidencebased discussion' and 'complex multi-factorial environment', especially when the audience were of the opinion that his glinting gold watch was paid for by the pounds that put the pounds on the nation's kids.

But Institute of Practitioners in Advertising director-general Hamish Pringle hoped he might 'change one or two people's minds' during a Health Development Agency conference debate on whether kiddie food advertising made them fat, by explaining that advertising did not work.

'Advertising is a relatively weak force in all of this, ' he soothed.

Not many children saw advertising because the BBC did not have any. And anyway, if ads were so damaging, how come only a third of children were overweight - why did it not have an impact on the other two-thirds?

Furthermore, he posed, if advertising food to kids was so bad for their health, why were there not calls to ban advertising of video games? You could almost see a collective think bubble above the audience's heads:

'Oh yes, why indeed?'

'If the issue is to do with the balancing of calories in and calories out, why is all the attention on banning the advertising of calories in?' he asked.

National Heart Foundation chief executive Paul Lincoln followed.He bellowed into the hole Mr Pringle had helpfully dug for himself: 'If you believe what You have heard today from the industry you have to ask yourself, is that what they tell prospective food clients?' But he need not have bothered, as the man from the ad world had made much the same case.