Advertising fit for a King
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past six months, you will be aware that the UK has seen 3 prime ministers and 2 monarchs. This instability is hopefully now giving way to some stability, in the reign of King Charles III. Here, James Corlett looks at the Coronation Emblem and offers his do’s and don’ts on how to stick to the rules and guidelines.
The Royal Family has helpfully tried to distract from all this by arranging a Coronation for the new King Charles in May. It is hoped by many retailers that this will be reason enough for millions of the Great British public to order commemorative plates, bunting and booze by the bucket load and some will be banking on the lift after a testing time with the pandemic, Brexit and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
However, for those brands who are seeking to reign in increased sales off the back of the King’s coronation in May by encouraging consumers to ‘buy British’, they need to be careful to consider how they can celebrate the Coronation without falling foul of advertising regulations or incurring any unexpected liability.
To mark the King’s Coronation, a specific Coronation emblem (“Emblem”) has been designed.
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Emblem “is intended for use by charities, companies and individuals for celebrations” to mark the Coronation. The guidelines confirm that such “intended use” includes “commercial use, merchandise and advertising”. However, there are rules contained within the guidance that you must abide by, including specified colours that you must use when replicating the Emblem in order to be able to use it.royalcommunications_coronation-emblem-files_2023-02-09_1128
As well as standard issues of infringement that you must be careful to avoid, the Trade Marks Act provides specific restrictions in relation to references third parties can make to the Royal Arms or other devices, in connection with any business, without the authority of the King. You should be aware that featuring the Royal Arms or Emblems or referring to a Royal Warrant is likely to imply official endorsement and as such, brands are strongly advised against doing so, unless they hold relevant permission.
It’s worth noting that whilst souvenir products are not likely to be considered to imply royal endorsement, you should take care to ensure you do not imply that a product is official memorabilia if it is not. Likewise, it is an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act to give any false indication that goods/services are supplied or approved by the King or any member of the Royal Family in the course of business.
Brands should always comply with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA’s) general advertising rules and also be aware that members of the public and/or competitors can make complaints against a brand if a reference to the King or the Royal Family breaches the UK advertising codes – the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) and the UK Code of Broadcast Marketing (BCAP Code). For example, the codes prohibit misleading advertising and rules pertaining to the depiction of the Royal Family and the use of Royal Arms or Emblems in advertising. Complaints that are upheld by the ASA often result in a requirement to change or remove the advertisements which will have cost implications in taking down ads and replacing them, wasted costs and opportunities as well as management time in addition to any negative PR.
Whilst you may be tempted to include a depiction of Charles III or the Windsor family in your upcoming campaigns, the CAP Code makes clear that members of the Royal Family should not be shown or mentioned in a marketing communication without prior permission. Incidental references unconnected with the advertised product (or references to material such as a book, article or film about a member of the Royal Family) may be acceptable, but in general, you should avoid unless you’ve received the Royal seal of approval. members of the Royal Family shouldn’t normally be shown or mentioned in a marketing communication without their prior permission.
Do’s and Don’ts
- DO consider first asking for permission – in particular, DO NOT feature images of the Royals without permission.
- DO use the official approved Emblem rather than other royal arms and logos, and follow the usage guidelines. The guidelines are relatively broad in terms of describing where the official logo can be used and they specifically permit commercial use, merchandise and advertising.
- DO follow the Lord Chamberlain’s Office guidelines around the use, for commercial purposes, of the Royal Arms, Royal Devices, Emblems and Titles and of photographs, portraits, engravings, effigies and busts of The King and Members of the Royal Family.
- DO check any use of the Royal Warrant with the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association.
- DO be aware that a complaint could be made to the ASA about your advertising by the public and more importantly, by competitors!
- DO NOT re-colour, adjust or amend the Emblem or create a new emblem.
- DO NOT use any Royal Arms /Emblems or refer to a Royal Warrant without the relevant permissions
- DO NOT make any suggestion that your goods/services are supplied or approved to or by the King or the Royal Family.
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By James Corlett