LONDON: The British government is rattling its legislative sabre in the direction of online advertisers, demanding they bring their messages "on message" or face the consequences.

The Brown administration is urging the internet industry to limit the number of ads targeting  children; also to abide by the Advertising Standards Authority's voluntary code.

The concern among ministers follows the publication last week of a specially commissioned report by child psychologist and TV pundit Dr Tanya Byron.

Her proposals in Safer Children in a Digital World include the "future-proofing" of the regulatory system to include digital to prevent "harmful and offensive advertising to children".

Byron also proposes a new UK council for child internet safety, reporting to the prime minister; a "comprehensive" public education campaign about dealing with online content; improved access to, and pre-installation of, parental control software.

The ASA says many of her recommendations are already being addressed by the Committee of Advertising Practice, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice as well as the advertising industry.

A future proofing project led by the Advertising Association is also under way.

Says ASA chairman Lord Chris Smith: "The ASA shares this concern about protecting children and has already challenged the industry to address the regulatory gap that currently exists around advertising that appears online."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff