Cadbury has taken down an advertising campaign webpage after it was accused of encouraging children and families to break the law.
The chocolate firm’s Freddo Treasures campaign urged children to “grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches” or “dig up Viking silver”.
But the confectioner was criticised for not warning that digging without permission is illegal.
The chocolate firm on Monday said it had taken down the webpage and was going to update it to “focus solely on directing families to museums where existing treasures can be found”.
Mondelez, trading as Cadbury, said the campaign had aimed to “inspire families to go on everyday adventures together”, not to break the law.
A spokeswoman added: “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 move was welcomed by UK Arts Minister Michael Ellis, who branded the campaign as “irresponsible”.
The Northampton North MP tweeted: “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.”
The advertising watchdog said it had received about 30 complaints about the campaign.
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority said the general nature of the complaints was that the advert was “irresponsible” by encouraging “potentially illegal activity” such as committing trespass by accessing sites without permission, causing criminal damage by digging without permission, or by stealing objects belonging to landlords.
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.— Michael Ellis (@Michael_Ellis1) March 18, 2019
A spokesman said it was assessing the complaints to establish whether there are any grounds for further action, but no decision had been taken.
Historic England, the Government’s heritage agency, also welcomed the site being taken down.
In a statement it said: “Unfortunately Cadbury’s PR campaign encouraging digging for treasure potentially puts people at odds with the law.
“There are strict rules that protect England’s archaeological heritage, including laws governing metal detection.
“We are glad to see the campaign website is no longer live and would be happy to advise Cadbury to make sure any future campaign doesn’t have unwelcome results.”
- Press Association