Eyes of Royal Wedding-Mad World Are on London

Murdoch's Sun Plans Giant Photo-tagging Effort; ITV Can't Air Spots During Ceremony

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Prince William and Catherine Middleton
Prince William and Catherine Middleton Credit: Mario Testino

The Americans, Germans and French are matching the British in their excitement about the royal wedding, as the world gears up for the union of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on Friday.

British Airways reports that its six busiest routes into London this week are all from the U.S., with traffic from New York, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco significantly heavier than usual. Inbound flights from France and Germany are also bursting with royal watchers making their way to London for the wedding.

At the start of this week, social-media buzz about the wedding was strongest in the U.K., while U.S. media outlets recorded a higher share of online news coverage from traditional news sources, according to an analysis of online buzz by Nielsen Co.

However, British media may catch up with the U.S. in the final build-up to the event. Speculation about why some people were invited and others were snubbed, and who will be wearing what, is escalating. Even Prime Minister David Cameron's choice of outfit has caused a big fuss, with his office forced to announce that he will be embracing his upper-class roots and wearing full morning suit to the wedding, and not the "man of the people" lounge suit that some papers had reported.

In a royal wedding survey conducted by JWT London this month with 300 U.K. consumers, 80% said they believe the wedding will have a positive impact on how the royal family is viewed. But royal family members aren't equally popular. Except for Queen Elizabeth II, whom 70% of respondents say they respect, the best-liked royals are the young ones. Prince William is respected by 64% of respondents and his brother Prince Harry by 59%, but their father Prince Charles scored only 40%, and Princes Andrew and Edward were the lowest-ranked royals, at 28% and 24%, respectively.

The majority of respondents -- 60% -- optimistically believe William and Kate will stay married forever, and 81% expect an heir to the throne within two years.

Unfortunately for those hawking royal wedding memorabilia, only 16% of respondents to the JWT poll said they would consider buying a souvenir, and the nay-sayers described those who do so as "sad" but "typically British." Among the merchandise buyers, 51% said they'd purchase collectables such as china, coins, stamps and dolls.

Others agree that the wedding gives Prince William's "brand" a big boost. Conquest Metaphorix has somehow calculated that his association with Kate Middleton adds 30% to public levels of affection for the second-in-line to the throne. Of the 500 Londoners surveyed by the research firm, 71% viewed the wedding as a good thing for the country.

William and Kate (whom the Queen wants us to call Catherine) are embracing the social-media opportunities presented by their wedding. A dedicated royal wedding channel has been set up on YouTube, and there is an official Twitter feed, @clarencehouse, named after the royal residence of Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and Princes William and Harry.

Facebook is inevitably teeming with royal wedding activity. As well as the British monarchy's own Facebook page, Tate & Lyle Sugars used the social-networking site to launch a "Let them eat cake" competition, and Facebook's Yahoo News page will be one of many sites live streaming the event.

Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper is creating a giant photo-tagging experience on its own Facebook page. On Friday afternoon, the Sun will post a picture taken from the roof of Buckingham Palace, showing the crowds as they wait to see William and Kate share a kiss on the balcony. People are encouraged to visit the site and tag themselves and their friends in the picture.

Research from TNS Omnibus predicts the royal wedding is likely to be the U.K.'s most-watched event of the past 10 years, with 26.2 million Brits planning to tune in to TV coverage, nearly 50% more people than watched the highest-rated 2010 show, the final episode of "X Factor." However, the audience is unlikely to match the 28.4 million who watched the marriage of William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, in July 1981.

The U.K. TV regulator Ofcom forbids commercials during the hour-long ceremony, costing the biggest commercial broadcaster ITV millions in potential ad revenue. The event qualifies as a "formal royal ceremony," and is therefore too regal to be sullied by commercial activity.

But the occasion is a big boost for retailers. TNS expects Brits to spend $320 million on snacks and drinks for the occasion, as they settle down in front of the TV at the start of a long weekend.

TNS also surveyed 6,600 people from six countries and found that Germany and the U.S. are the two countries where people will follow the event most closely on TV, with 44% and 42%, respectively, watching at home, after the Brits, at 52%. Other Europeans surveyed were less interested.

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