The People vs Willy’s Chocolate Experience

You may be a fan of chocolate, you may be a fan of Willy Wonka or Roald Dahl and you may be a fan of immersive experiences, then no doubt you will have been excited to hear about ‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ in Glasgow. Unfortunately, for attendees of the immersive event in Glasgow, they were left sadly disappointed by the reality, despite the stunning images on the production’s booking website.

Here, James Corlett looks at advertising regulations in the UK and how Wonka’s Chocolate Experience left a bitter taste in parents’ mouths.

In the lead up to last month’s event the organisers, House of Illuminati, advertised a “journey filled with wondrous creations” and upon seeing their AI-generated website imagery, your appetite would have only increased.

Unfortunately…, the reality of the event came crashing down to earth when customers realised that the event was hosted in an almost empty warehouse with few props, some characters that have not featured in the book nor the three films to date and where children were offered half a cup of lemonade and a small ration of jelly beans to ‘replicate’ the stunning depictions of Willy Wonka’s factory in the fictional tale.

Parents paid up to £35 a ticket to the event but were so outraged by the reality they called Police Scotland leading the compliant to go viral and the event to be shut down, with the site now no longer taking bookings.

This unfortunate incident raises important questions about the advertising of products and services in the UK and the now prevalent use of AI to generate marketing imagery & content quickly and cheaply.

Advertising in the UK is regulated by a patchwork of legislation and industry codes. The key point to take away is that marketing communications ‘must not materially mislead or be likely to do so’. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will take into account the impression created by marketing communications as well as specific claims. It will base its rulings on the basis of the likely effect on consumers and not the marketer’s intentions.


Although many businesses, particularly SMEs that may have grand plans but are lacking in bandwidth or resource, may be tempted to use generative AI to quickly create content of imagery, there is a real risk that as the works have no basis in reality, the AI will generate its own interpretation of the content and this could (as in the case!) be drastically different from the reality.

Much has been made in draft legislation of whether advertisers using labelling to qualify what they have produced would be useful or desirable but that would not have helped the event promoters in this case. The key principle of the rules in the UK is whether or not the advert would accurately reflect the efficacy of the product or service, in the same way that photoshopped or filtered images should not be used if there is a risk of misleading the customer.

The important point to remember is that even if you try to outsource your content creation to generative AI, you cannot outsource your compliance and the advertiser still has the primary responsibility to ensure that their ads are compliant.

If you would like advice on your adverts or marketing then get in touch with our specialist fixed-fee, fast-response team:


[This blog is intended to give general information only and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. The contents of this blog should not be regarded as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. All liability is excluded Readers are advised to seek specific legal advice.]

By James Corlett