Cadbury vows to change ad campaign that 'advocates looting'

Bonnie Christian

Cadbury has vowed to change its latest “real treasure hunt” ad campaign after it was accused of advocating looting.

The online Treasure Island ads, which were pulled down on Monday, suggested a number of sites across the UK and Ireland where “treasure’s fair game.”

They encouraged children to “grab their metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches.”

But, archaeologists and the government slammed the ad on social media as “irresponsible.”

Cadbury said: "It was not our intention to encourage anyone to break existing regulations regarding the discovery of new archaeological artefacts and we are grateful this matter has been brought to our attention."

Arts Minister Michael Ellis, said the campaign risked undermining rules in place that protect heritage.

“I have been told that the irresponsible @CadburyUK #FreddoTreasures campaign has been taken down. While we want young people to explore our nation's history, there are obviously rules in place under the Treasure Act to protect finds. This campaign puts that at risk,” he posted on Twitter.

The Advertising Standards Authority said it had received around 30 complaints in relation to the ad and was looking into whether it breached its standards.

Archaeologist and curator based at Bolton Museum called Cadbury’s approach “careless and misguided.”

In another tweet he wrote: “This is quite possibly the most shocking, ill-advised & irresponsible ‘heritage engagement’ campaigns I have ever seen.

"The #cadburytreasurehunt by @CadburyUK actively promotes the gleeful destruction of archaeological sites and undermines years of public heritage education…”

In a blog posted to British Archaeology’s website, the council likened the campaign to the “disastrous 1984 ‘Creme Egg Scandal’” where thousands of people dug up the countryside to find a 22-carat gold egg.

Hidden History also condemned the ad on their Twitter page, writing: “We're saddened to hear of Cadbury's irresponsible 'Treasure Island' campaign, encouraging damage and illegal metal detecting on UK scheduled monuments. Reminder that it is a criminal offence to even break soil on protected sites in the UK, never mind search for 'treasures'!”

In response, Cadbury removed the campaign temporarily, telling the Guardian: “Cadbury Freddo Treasures aims to inspire families to go on everyday adventures together. It was not our intention to encourage anyone to break existing regulations regarding the discovery of new archaeological artefacts and we are grateful this matter has been brought to our attention.

“We can now confirm that the webpage has been taken down and we are updating the content to focus solely on directing families to museums where existing treasures can be found.”

The Standard has approached Cadbury UK for comment.