I recently watched the 2011 movie “My Week with Marilyn”. The movie is about a young intern on a movie set in England. Marilyn Monroe is one of the actors and the intern is assigned to keep Marilyn company and get her to the set on time.
Marilyn is difficult to work with. All the people affiliated with the production get so frustrated with Marilyn’s erratic and unprofessional behavior that they begin to do anything necessary to get her to show up, say her lines correctly and get the film produced. Her acting coach, manager and the other actors on set tell her she is wonderful and beautiful and a natural talent. Cast and crew wait around for hours before she shows up late for a scene. The intern goes to her house at anytime day or night when she calls. There is even a doctor prescribing drugs to keep Marilyn happy, just so she will finish the film.
At first I found myself judging the actors and crew for enabling her behavior. Then I got to thinking that those people were under pressure to do a job: Finish the movie so they could pay their rent and bills. At the end of the day, the show must and had to go on!
I wondered, would I have the courage to stand up to a big movie star and not enable a self-destructive person? I then realized that on a much different stage, I am occasionally faced with a similar dilemma as an account manager in the exhibit industry.
There is an old adage that we have been taught for years: “The customer is always right.”If the client wants to add an element to the exhibit that doesn’t look right or won’t hold up...do it because the show must go on and the customer is always right. If they choose to use a non-trade show dedicated shipper for inbound and outbound freight...the show must go on and the customer is always right. If the client wants to risk going against work rules at a union venue...the show must go on because the customer is always right.
As we quickly learn in the trade show and event worlds, sometimes the customer is not always right.
I often hear, “You’re the expert. What should I do?” I admit, I will probably not argue very strongly against a client’s design tastes or color preferences, but I will always recommend against doing anything unsound or risky, without bringing the issue their attention. If it means occasionally not landing a new opportunity or missing out on a project with an existing partner, this is the price paid for building respect and trust.
There is no shortage of “expert advice” when it comes to planning and attending trade shows and other marketing events. The internet is full of that advice, and sometimes can lead to decisions that are penny-wise and pound foolish.
In “My Week with Marilyn”, the customer was always right...but in my world, the customer is always right, unless they are on their way to being wrong! The show must go on but I’m not afraid to tell you, the curtain might not go up as smoothly as you like.