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Why it’s always good to test-drive your communications

Whether you love or loathe the advertising industry, there’s one thing they’re good at: controlling every aspect of the messages they deliver.

So it was a bit of a surprise – okay, it was fun – to find a lapse in the industry’s we-think-of-everything professionalism.

At Findel airport in Luxembourg, there’s an escalator down to the gates. Right over the escalator is an impressive multi-screen video display. Even more impressive is the location. There’s nothing else to look at, and your hands are too full of carry-on baggage to reach for your smartphone. Whoever sited that display here knew what they were doing.

So far, so controlled. That goes for the messages too – an endless loop of pleasant but generic images and words of welcome.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this slick, efficient, hi-tech communication machine wished me “a peasant flight”. I looked again. Yup. Peasant.

Was this their way of saying they knew I was flying economy?

Okay, we all know they meant “pleasant”. They even wrote “pleasant”. But as luck would have it, the “l” landed right in the gap between two screens, rendering it invisible. Oops.

Most likely, this was a simple case of nobody telling the graphic designer where the screen gaps fell because nobody saw the potential for trouble.

But whatever the cause, the solution is the same: you test-drive your communication. You look it over and read it from the viewpoint of the user. You question your assumptions. Relentlessly.

And you check out the product in situ. That way you can truly know what the audience is seeing. And if there’s a problem, you’ll be the first one to spot it. Instead of the last.

Click to see this column in the December 2015 issue of Discover Benelux.