Store Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

1983 Cadbury’s Gold Egg Treasure

Cadbury’s Chocolate Blasted For Sponsoring Archaeological Vandalism

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In 1985, Cadbury chocolatiers encouraged the British public to trespass and dig on protected archaeological sites in an advertising campaign known as the ‘Creme Egg Scandal’ which caused a number of complaints from landowners leading to the contest being called off. And now, they’ve done it again!

The company’s new “Cadbury Treasures” campaign is directly aimed at children and encourages metal detecting and digging at protected archaeological sites. The Daily Mail reported on the 1985 incident and have again covered this new scandal revealing how the Cadbury Treasures website is divided into two categories. The first is called “Undiscovered Treasure” and it details six ancient sites in the Republic of Ireland and England and in the “Discovered Treasure” section there are links to heritage websites with information about national collections, though none of these organizations had been contacted for approval.

Besides the sloppy typos and site identification mistakes, like referring to Mooghaun Hillfort and showing a picture of Doonagore Castle, the webpage omits any reference to the ideas of ‘archaeology’ or ‘history.’ It does, however, tell people to “grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches” and, “the treasure’s fair game”.

Part of the Cadbury Treasures campaign, encouraging unlicensed metal detecting. (Cadbury)

Part of the Cadbury Treasures campaign, encouraging unlicensed metal detecting. (Cadbury)

Northern Irish laws, including the ‘Historic Monuments and Archaeology Order’ (1995) prohibits even looking for archaeological artifacts without the appropriate official permissions and any archaeological excavations must be conducted with a state certified archaeologist approved for specific projects. The Cadbury’s competition provides no laws governing ‘treasure hunting’ and ‘The Treasure Act’ (1996) has been completely omitted, as have the requirements for reporting, land owner permissions, and details about the “Portable Antiquities Scheme.”

Because these laws vary from region to region Cadbury’s are essentially luring children to break the law through criminal activities. Even though this entire marketing campaign is aimed at children, encouraging them to walk along rivers and tidal sea waters, Cadbury’s completely ignore ALL legal guidance and offer NO advice on health and safety.

These recent instructions could lead to members of the public reengaging with 1985’s illegal activities and for this reason the campaign breaches the Advertising Standards Agency’s requirement for social responsibility by promoting unsafe, irresponsible, or illegal acts.

Children were encouraged to dig up Viking silver on the River Ribble. (Andrew Mathewson)

Children were encouraged to dig up Viking silver on the River Ribble. (Andrew Mathewson)

And Now, From The Not So Stupid Folk…

In conjunction with archaeologists and heritage organizations, including the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Treasure Trove in Scotland and the National Heritage Agencies, hundreds of historians, archaeologists, archivists, museum professionals and even metal detectorists have united against Cadbury’s urging them to remove their “ill-conceived web material or replace it with more considered content”.

According to a BBC report “The campaign suggests it's ‘probably worth a quick check’ at Mooghaun Fort, in the Republic of Ireland, where gold ingots were discovered. In response to this, Dr Aisling Tierney, an archaeologist at Bristol University said “To suggest 'a quick check' is intensely stupid and deeply illegal,” also noting the legal status of the Republic of Ireland having strict rules surrounding the use of metal detectors.

What is more, the BBC also reported that Prof Dan Hicks of Oxford University pointed out in a Tweet that ”the campaign could lead people to break the law” by; damaging a scheduled monument, trespassing, theft or criminal damage to property. Adding to this, metal detecting with no license and failure to report finds (treasure) within 14 days.

It is almost unbelievable that all the careful preservation and conservation work at the historical sites of the UK and Ireland would be so willingly abused by a money orientated corporate giant while it campaigns to essentially poison people with its refined sugar bars. To in some ways make up for their utter disrespect, it has been suggested that Cadbury should make a long-term annual commitment to support the protection, conservation and interpretation of archaeology.

Top image: 1983 Cadbury’s Gold Egg Treasure    Source: Batemans of Stamford

By Ashley Cowie



Gary Moran's picture

Maybe they thought that after 30+ years it would be ok to try again. Or, maybe they needed something new – been running the same TV advert in US for 30 years. The damage and destruction of historical sites seems to be on the rise – bad enough that vandals and drunks damage things, but to have a corporation encourage it is shameless – no morality or respect in their arena


Even though I love Cadbury chocolate, I plan to boycott. It should be a crime what they’re doing

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

Next article