Taking the (chocolate) biscuit: Cadbury advertising campaign gets it wrong

Some of you may remember the recent controversy over an advertising campaign produced by chocolate manufacturer, Cadbury. The campaign, based upon the ‘Freddo Treasures’ chocolates, suggested people could go hunting for hidden treasure in the countryside around them. The problem? They didn’t consult with legislative bodies, police, or the archaeological or heritage communities. Here’s a short piece I wrote about Cadbury’s controversial campaign, as the story broke – my thanks to Aisling Tierney for bringing it to the attention of the heritage community.

Over the weekend of the 16-17 March, news of Cadbury’s new advertising campaign, Freddo Treasures, started to circulate in the heritage and archaeological communities. The campaign encouraged children to go out hunting for hidden treasure, to dig up historic sites, and find lost archaeological items.

The campaign made no mention of the legislation currently in place to protect our shared heritage. It encouraged children to trespass on, and dig up, land that is not open to the public. The campaign also suggested that people could dig up Scheduled Ancient Monuments and other heritage sites. And keep whatever they found for themselves.

All of this activity is highly illegal. Cadbury’s Freddo Treasures campaign directly encourages looting, nighthawking (illegal metal detecting), and trespassing. Cadbury’s Freddo Treasures campaign also breaks the law in Britain and Ireland. In Britain, the Treasure Act (1996) requires that permission is sought from landowners before carrying out archaeological or heritage investigations, that any finds are reported to the appropriate authorities. The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the existence of local Finds Liaison Officers – most counties have one – are also omitted from the Freddo Treasures. The campaign breaks the law in Northern Ireland, where the Historic Monuments and Archaeology Order (1995) requires official permission for archaeological investigations or searches for archaeological objects. Scottish law requires that any items of historical, cultural, or archaeological significance are reported under the Treasure Trove system – otherwise they can be claimed by the Crown. In the Republic of Ireland, archaeological investigations at any level have to have a state-certified archaeologist, approved project specifications, and an official licence. At no point has Cadbury’s Freddo Treasures campaign made any mention of the legal requirements for archaeological investigations.

But it’s not just about the legal implications of the Freddo Treasures campaign, it’s about the moral issues surrounding it too. Our archaeology and heritage is shared, and morally belongs to everyone – not just in Britain and Ireland, but internationally as well. We have a duty to record what we find, to write about it: from Roman coins and Civil War musket balls, to Iron Age hillforts and Victorian factories, all items from the seemingly small and insignificant to the large and obvious have so much to tell us about our past. How did our ancestors live? What did they eat? How did they work? What were their houses like? Did they barter or use money? What were their clothes made of? We can go some way towards answering some of these questions based on what people find as they walk through our countryside and urban areas – provided these objects and sites are recorded properly.

Cadbury have missed a fantastic opportunity, in the planning stages of this campaign, to engage with those of us that work in heritage and archaeology, those of us that work with historic objects and the public on a day to day basis. Before beginning to launch their campaign, Cadbury should have got in touch with one of the many national groups that work with archaeology and heritage – the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Society for Museum Archaeology, Historic England, Historic Scotland, English Heritage, the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, amongst others. It could also have engaged groups that work to get young people involved in history, heritage, and archaeology, such as the CBA’s Young Archaeologists Club, the Scouts, or the Girl Guides. The heritage sector is also full of fantastic individuals working as consultants or in local museums that, alongside county archaeological societies, could have worked with Cadbury to promote heritage at a local level.

But all is not lost – it is time for Cadbury to swallow the bitter chocolate, sit up to the table, engage with the sector, and use its campaign (and frankly, its financial clout) to galvanise public interest in history, archaeology, and heritage.

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