Trade Show Managers: Get Customer Approval Always!
Posted on Sep 14, 2012 by Rachel O'Sullivan, Director of West Coast Operations | Subscribe to this RSS feed |
This week a story broke about how during the tribute to American veterans during the Democratic National Convention, a backdrop of Russian Navy images was mistakenly displayed. The Russian warships, many of Soviet-era origin, were shown on a giant screen Sept. 6 above 50 veterans while a retired Navy Admiral honored veterans’ contributions to America. A Navy Veteran who spotted the error, sent the image to Navy Times.
It was strongly suggested the DNC owed an apology, or at least an explanation on how something like this could happen. So, on Wednesday, a DNCC spokeswoman said the image of what seems to be the Russian Black Sea Fleet appeared on screen due to an unspecified “vendor error,” but was unable to say how it had occurred or whether the photo had been digitally altered. Naval experts who reviewed the image believe that the photo is a composite of Russian ships and F-5 trainer jets.
Ok, so now we know (or are led to believe) it was “vendor error.”
But how in the world did this come to pass? I’m stunned that a mistake like this, something so preventable, could happen during an event of this proportion and caliber. As event planners, we routinely coordinate graphics for events. There is a process we follow:
- We consult with our customer.
- We meet with our graphic artists and creative team to put together a concept.
- Once we’ve got an idea, we present it to the customer for input and changes. It is during this process we make sure logos are correct and supporting images are appropriate.
- The graphic artist prepares a proof and, assuming all is good to go, the customer signs off on it.
I can’t help but wonder what the hell happened during their creative process to make such an egregious error. Since I wasn’t there, I can only make a few assumptions.
- The customer (the DNC) told the vendor to make a backdrop using Navy ships. The vendor, probably having no Navy experience, found some pretty pictures of ships. Either the vendor didn’t realize the error, or they didn’t think anyone would notice.
- The quality assurance check by the customer was made by someone who wasn’t qualified give the final approval.
Although the DNC is blaming the vendor, I think both parties (vendor and customer) bear responsibility. There is a reason we have our customer sign a proof and this is it.
The fallout from this debacle has been significant for both political parties. The GOP has used it to illustrate how the Democratic Party is out of touch with Veterans. The Democrats counterpoint is that at least they paid tribute to Veterans during their convention while the Republicans were strangely silent.
And while I believe this entire situation could have been easily avoided, this is an excellent reminder to event planners and trade show managers everywhere on why we have customer approval processes in place, and why, no matter how big or small the event is, we should adhere to them always.
Rachel is Vox Optima’s premiere event planner and trade show master. Along with all her experience managing successful shows and trade exhibits, Rachel most likely has several post-graduate degrees in schmoozing and persuasion (nah, just kidding). You can learn more about Rachel at her staff profile page or connect up with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or via email.
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