The news that Prince William is to marry Kate Middleton has caused huge media excitement in the UK and across the world. Like all celebrities, Will and Kate attract huge interest and brands want to benefit from association with a major event, a royal wedding between the future King of England and a commoner being possibly the most important national celebrations in many years.
Many people will have no interest in the nuptials at all. Equally an overly extravagant ceremony and festivities, in what will be an inevitably difficult financial year for many in UK , may be unpopular. For the Royal family there will be a fine line between staging a show to boost morale amongst many Royal supporters, while not being seen to be spending too much money in a year when even the Queen has been forced to make financial cuts to her budget. Nevertheless, thousands are expected to want to join the celebrations of this fairytale romance and there is undeniable benefit to advertisers associating themselves with the story. The media frenzy will continue in the lead up the wedding and focus not only on the wedding day itself, but on all elements surrounding future Princess Catherine’s life, what she wears, where she goes, what she likes to buy.
Advertisers and ad agencies beware however, there are a few important legal issues that restrict the use of Royalty and royal emblems and insignia, uniforms and private buildings in advertising.
First, of course, licences/consents are needed for the use of any photographs of the couple. More importantly however advertising may not claim or imply that a particular product is endorsed by the Royal Family or connected in any way to royal events when it is not. In particular, members of the Royal Family ought not normally be shown or mentioned in a marketing communication without consent (CAP Code Rule 6.2) and the Royal Arms or any royal emblems must not be used without prior permission from the Lord Chamberlain’s office. In addition use of a Royal Warrant can only be made by the warrant holder in line with the rules of such use. The Royal Warrant Holders’ Association (rule 3.52).
The only significant exception to the general rule about not using royalty in advertising is if there is a truly incidental reference which is not connected to the advertised product or services or the use is with reference to publications featuring the royal family such as a book, film or programme.
The use of uniforms may also be protected. The Uniforms Act 1896, which is still in force today, prohibits the wearing of a military uniform by those not serving in the Forces. It may be that for legitimate advertising purposes, an exemption to the rule may apply, and a similar exemption may also apply under the Police Act 1996, which makes it an offence to impersonate a policeman. However under the Chartered Associations (Protection of Names and Uniforms) Act 1926, any association incorporated under Royal Charter can apply for an Order in Council to protect the name, insignia and uniform of that association. It is always worth checking before using any such badges, emblems or insignia.
Clearly the Royal Family wish for the country to enjoy and celebrate this happy occasion and for businesses to benefit from any commercial boost to the country’s fortunes that the wedding will generate. Humorous advertisements connected with Royalty have been overlooked by the ASA in the past, provided they are not likely to cause offence. One cannot help but query whether the use in a Eurostar advertisement of a lookalike Prince Charles was entirely successful though? So while care must certainly be taken, that is not to say that all references to the Kate and Will, the wedding, the Royal Family are impossible.