|Posted on September 12, 2012 at 2:50 PM|
There was a bit of a hubbub at CEDIA this year when a major, well-respected trade journal decided to run a “fun” (their words), “Hottest CEDIA EXPO Booth Babes” contest during the show. (I’m not gonna say who it was. Except it wasn’t Residential Systems or Sound + Vision, whom I write for. You can Google “Hottest CEDIA booth babe” if you want to know...)
Amidst the Twitter pushback, they (smartly) decided to pull the story down. When I asked them about it, the response was, “Funny that we've run it in the past with minor complaints. Too much political correctness in this world.”
"Political correctness" aside, the fact is, many of the women that have worked very hard to develop a legitimate role in this industry felt really insulted by this. With groups like Women in AV and Women in CE working to carve out genuine careers for women in the tech industry – where you’ve got to imagine garnering respect is difficult enough in a field this is probably 90%-plus male dominated -- you can see how highlighting the exact stereotype they fight against would be off-putting.
As the father of a tech-savvy daughter, I’d like to think that she has a future – should she want it – at CEDIA EXPO or any other tech event where “hottest” and “babe” aren’t the labels that she’s likely to be tagged with. (She does like “cute” and “princess” though.)
Granted, having attractive women/models in your booth to garner attention is certainly nothing new. And if you’ve ever been to CES – especially the car-stereo-filled North Hall – then you’ve doubtless seen plenty of “booth babes.” (There was quite a bit of stir at this year's CES over the subject. An interesting BBC video clip here...) Often these women stand out because they are the ones that are dressed more for, say, serving wings at Hooter’s or perhaps lying out by a pool or asking if a sailor is looking for a good time. (I will say, I only noticed a couple of booths that were employing “babes” at CEDIA. Maybe it was just that the manufacturers I focused on visiting/covering didn’t feel the need, or that after 14 shows, I’ve grown accustomed to looking past them.)
For the record, booth babes do nothing for me. (If you take a look at the women that I DO like, you’ll see that they have far more going on above the neck than below.) In fact, I actually find it a bit awkward. I hate the idea that people think I’m walking up to these women because of the way they look. Hate it.
Also, these “babes” are frequently positioned front-and-center in a booth, and I don’t really have any interest in approaching a scantily clad, double-D figured woman to ask her a product question. And usually something like, “Can you tell me who the PR contact is?” is met with, “Umm, I, uh, don’t actually work for this company. I was just hired for the show.” (Really? Wow. Cause I was thinking you were in charge of R&D or long-term strategic development dressed in that leather mini. And, no, I don’t want an autographed poster.)
Fact is, I’m sure that booth babes garner attention. The propagation of the species is pretty much set up around boys liking to look at girls, and technology tradeshows are *filled* with boys. But is it the right kind of attention?
When I see a manufacturer relying on booth babes, it tells me that they don’t really feel that they have a product that stands entirely on its own merit.
(Full disclosure: If you DO have Keira Knightley, Zooey Deschanel or Winona Ryder in your booth, I’d prefer them to be casually attired. But I’ll definitely stop by for a visit and would love to come to your press dinner.)
I mean, I’m WAY more likely to wander over to your booth because you have a giant video display, or high-end surround demo, or are blowing something up (thanks, SurgeX and ioSafe!) or have a Lamborghini sitting in your booth. (Seriously, you put an Aventador in your booth, just try and stop me from visiting!)
To me, the “hottest booth babes” are the ones that are really dialed in and really know their product. They’re passionate about what they do. They are evangelists for their companies and – often – the industry as a whole. And I can guarantee you’ll never see them at a booth wearing a belly shirt.
Under that definition, here’s 10 “hot babes” in the industry you actually should get to know for all the right reasons:
Melissa Andresko, Senior Public Relations Manager, Lutron Electronics
Betsey Banker, Marketing and Communications Manager, Ergotron
Jennifer Davis, Vice President of Marketing, Runco
Olivia Dumanovsky, Marketing Specialist, Pakedge
Veronica Esbona, President, InGear PR
Sarah Fleishman, Marketing Manager, AccessNetworks
Kimberly Lancaster, Principal, Caster Communications
Erin Phillips, Marketing & Social Media Specialist, Paradigm, Anthem and Martin Logan
Victoria Pires, Product Manager, Kaleidescape
Katherine Spiller, Director Sales and Marketing, Steinway Lyngdorf
What do you think? Booth babes...for 'em or against 'em?