It's been a fun media week for yours truly here at Do You Come with the Car!
My weekly column at TheTruthAboutCars.com is super fun to write, and this week's post was no exception. I've been seeing some pretty sweet rides around town and wanted to share the beauty - check it out... My column appears every Sunday, so keep your eyes open for it!
I was also interviewed for a story on the current and changing role of product specialists for a piece at Autos.Sympatico.ca. Another fun one, just trying to spread the word that we're more than pretty faces... You can find the story here: Heels and Wheels.
I wanted to print the interview in its entirety... There's some stuff he didn't use (which is totally fine; it didn't really change the context of anything he did use) and I think being able to read the whole thing gives a fuller picture. Many thanks to Michael Banovsky for the awesome story, for thinking of me in the first place and for generally being awesome!
How did you come across this job?
I was doing convention work and was staffed as a local at an auto show - meaning I was there to assist the product specialists with things like lead generation, not to talk about the cars. I liked their job a lot better!
How long have you been working in this capacity?
I have been an automotive product specialist for four years, but have been doing other types of experiential automotive marketing as well as a working fashion, commercial and promotional/convention model for much longer.
What’s the proper term for your work?
The sharp-dressed people like me at the auto show who talk about the vehicles on the mic or one-on-one are called product specialists. I use the term "booth babe" on my blog as a facetious nod to those who use it derisively.
On your blog, you talk a lot about a lack of etiquette during the auto show. Do you think it comes with the territory or is there something deeper?
It isn't just a lack of etiquette, although the public at large certainly does seem to have forgotten how to use the key phrases "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." This job has opened my eyes to the still-strong undercurrent of sexism in our society. When I try to discuss this on my blog I receive comments such as, "What do you expect when you're wearing a miniskirt?" A) We don't wear miniskirts, we wear business suits or cocktail attire (except for the Fiat brands, but that's a whole other can of worms) and B) It doesn't matter what myself or anyone else is wearing - everyone deserves respect regardless of their appearance. It quickly became apparent to me that a large segment of men think an attractive woman can't possibly know anything about cars. Frankly, I know more than most of the salespeople and nearly all the attendees. My favorite moments at the show are when a male salesperson sends an incredulous dude my way to get an answer to a technical question.
Have you heard stories of the “old days”? Do you think your work is becoming more progressive? Why/why not?
Margery Krevsky, the President/CEO of Productions Plus (which casts a huge chunk of the talent you see at the auto show) recently wrote a book called "Sirens of Chrome" which details the history of the auto show model and how our role changed throughout the years. We started literally as hood ornaments and now are the go-to experts not just at the auto show, but at marketing events across the country. Margery recognized years and years ago that we could contribute to automotive marketing on a much larger scale than just standing around looking pretty. We are walking, talking product handbooks, and how well we answer questions about the vehicles we represent has a direct impact on whether that attendee will buy our car or one of our competitor's.
What sort of training do you do before a show?
Every year we have an intensive training session lasting several days in which we go over every vehicle on our lineup with a fine tooth comb, learning all the new features and how they compare not only to the previous model year but to competitive vehicles. Our trainers, all of whom have engineering backgrounds, have intimate knowledge of not just our product line but automotive technology in general. We leave with piles and piles of information - literally a suitcase full - that we digest during the ensuing weeks before the auto show season starts. Sometimes some of this info is rather top secret, albeit temporarily - it might have to do with details of a concept the company is working on or a new vehicle release or redesign, the details of which have not yet been released to the press. They want us to have time to learn everything by the time the information does go public. Throughout the year we are constantly kept up-to-date with new information as it becomes available.
How many products are you required to know about?
We are required to know every vehicle on our lineup. Sometimes you'll be drawn to a particular vehicle and take a special interest in the minute details of that one, but we must be able to speak in depth about each and every vehicle we offer. We also need to know at least a little something about the direct competitors to each of our vehicles - people will always ask why ours is better or how it is different.
What’s a typical day of working on the show floor?
We usually work in six hour shifts, unless we're doing a double which can bring the day anywhere between 10-14 hours. (Six hours might not seem like a long time, but you try standing there in 5-inch heels under hot lights answering the same questions over and over while people try to sneak photos of your butt and make snide comments about everything you can imagine. Now think about doing that for 14 hours. Now I'd like to introduce you to my friend, the dirty martini.) Anyway, we get to the show, settle our bags in, change into our torture chamber shoes, grab a coffee immediately before our shifts start. Then we just jump right into the madness: depending on our brand and our job responsibilities, we can be doing anything from presenting a vehicle on a platform with a mic to lead generation to manning the information desk, or even just floating around our display area being available to answer questions.
In recent years, I’ve noticed more men on the show that are closer to spokesperson and stand stander (with colour-coded outfits!) than their usual role of buttoned-down expert or salesman. Are more men becoming “models” or (as Jalopnik calls ‘em) “booth professionals”? Why? Equality or…?
There are lots of male product specialists! I'd say the job is about 2/3 female and 1/3 male overall, but for some manufacturers the mix is more like 50/50, and some 90/10 female. The guys (booth bros?) have the same sort of background that the women do: actors, models, other performers and pro drivers who have a keen interest in cars and don't puke at the thought of speaking in front of a huge crowd. There are more women then men who do this, and I think it will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future. The job was traditionally female, so we already have a larger presence because of that, but a lot of women attend these shows and they just seem to be more comfortable talking to another woman. I think attendees assume any guy in a suit at the display is a salesperson and therefor to be avoided, so sometimes even the men who think a "booth babe" can't possibly know more than they do about cars will come to us instead of the guy. Plus, the guys really moan about wearing the stilettos. ; )
Why do you think women and cars are paired together so often?
People, male or female, are naturally drawn to things that are aesthetically pleasing. A beautiful car and a beautiful woman in front of a beautiful vista is much nicer to look at than a beautiful car with some snaggletoothed, unwashed hillbilly draped across the hood in a ghetto parking lot. I'm sure there's also some sort of subtext along the lines of "Which is faster, the sports car or the babe laying on it?" At the auto show it's all about getting people into your display and keeping them there. Beautiful cars and beautiful product specialists might get people into the display, but our approachability and most importantly our knowledge keep them there.