The promotional material, featured on the side of Jersey Dairy milk cartons, show a picture of a man in a hot-tub underneath the headline ‘Missing (presumed on staycation)’.
It continues: ‘Have you seen Dave? Last seen looking seriously chilled in a hot tub with a smile on his face.’ It goes on to urge Islanders to report sightings.
Several JEP readers have said the advert is disrespectful to the families of missing children whose images were featured on the side of milk cartons.
In a letter of complaint to Visit Jersey, which was also sent to the JEP, one Islander wrote: ‘I believe it is very bad taste to see you using something as important as the missing children on milk cartons campaign, which is recognised worldwide, to advertise holidays.
‘Not only is this sleazy and in bad taste, it may lessen the impact and message that this campaign is used for.
‘I do hope I am not the first and only person to bring this to your attention and hope you see the error of your ways and remove this from your cartons as the heartbreak of others should not be used as a means to make money.’
In a statement, a Visit Jersey spokesperson apologised if the advert had caused offence.
They said: ‘The Do it for Jersey campaign is a Visit Jersey-led initiative to support industry recovery by urging locals to take a staycation in Jersey and provide a much-needed boost to tourism operators around the Island.
‘The premise of the entire campaign, which we have been running across the Island since March, is to inspire Islanders to take a well-earned break and we apologise if that has caused offence to anyone.
‘It was in no means in the spirit of the campaign and was absolutely not intended.’
A Jersey Dairy spokesperson also apologised for any offence, and said the organisation was only trying to help boost the tourism industry.
They added: ‘Jersey Dairy supported Visit Jersey’s staycation campaign to try and boost the tourism and hospitality sector, which has suffered badly during the Covid-19 pandemic, by providing them with advertising space on the side panel of the milk carton.
‘We apologise if the “Do it for Jersey” advert has offended anyone, and of course this was not anyone’s intention.
‘Our intention was to provide support to many hard-working people in the hospitality industry, who have suffered badly in the last year and who deserve support from us all.
‘Unfortunately, we cannot withdraw the 2.5% and 1% cartons as we do not have replacement packaging in stock, however, replacement packaging has been ordered.’
Milk carton appeals for missing children were widely used in the UK and USA until the mid-1990s.
One of the most famous cases was that of close friends David Spencer (13) and 11-year-old Patrick Warren, who were last seen on the outskirts of Birmingham on Boxing Day 1996.
The pair, who have never been found, were dubbed the ‘milk carton kids’ as their photos were printed on bottles across the UK.