Booth babes: Yay! or Nay?

[This story also appears on NSMB.com and contains a copy of my Whistler Diaries column called ‘Worthless Wankers’ that appeared in issue 113 of Dirt Magazine.] 

This photo was taken at the 2010 Interbike show in Las Vegas. This young lady's name was Joanne. She signed the entire quota of her posters the day before so had none left. She doesn’t bike, she doesn’t know why she was there except to look pretty.

Each September a small cabal of NSMB newsroom hacks head off to Las Vegas with camera and pen in hand, ready to report on the latest and greatest in high performance bicycle developments from Interbike. Each year we try to do that but each year we get side tracked by silicone bumper girls who stand guard on the stands like hyper sexed sentries. These puffed out, pimped out princesses of man-pantie filling dreams are stationed throughout the show to attract and lure people to the products on display, but most of the time we are so distracted by the products they are displaying that we forget what planet we are on and drift off into a salivating, panting, dribbling, giggling, blushing reverie.

The bicycle industry is a dominated by males and the few females within the testosterone circus have to be as thick skinned as chubby rhino in order to deal with the constant dick jokes, boob gags and references to hard and dirty action (I’m talking about biking…cough). But it isn’t just the cycle industry. At the 2012 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas a BBC news team went inside to ask whether booth babes are an effective marketing strategy or just a reflection of the gender relations in technology.

[The BBC videos can not be embedded so you will just have to click the link below to see the video in question]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16533289

“I’m not sure if it is degrading so much as it is uncomfortable, or confusing because it is sending this message of what my sex is here to do…if anything it is kind of weird” said Molly McHugh, a technology writer for Digital Trends who perhaps knows a thing or two about handheld toys.

“I wish there was more visibility for women who are working in technology as much as they are hired to strut around” said Taylor Hatmaker, the senior editor for Tecca.

However, not everyone is against booth babes and one particular high ranking officer is willing to fight for booth babe rights. Gary Shapiro is the CEO for the Consumer Electronics Association and had this to say “It is a bit old school but it does work. People are naturally want to go to what they think is pretty”

Anyway, here is a few memories from our 2011 Interbike coverage. You make your own mind up about sequined sex bots and plastic androids selling your next bike. Below is an article that I wrote and which originally appeared in Dirt Magazine’s issue #113.

DIRT

WHISTLER DIARIES

#113

‘Worthless wankers’

By Seb Kemp

There are some great ways to get your message across and some not so great ways to get your message across. There are many ways to effectively convey a message and then there are ways that make a great deal of noise but don’t exactly do the message justice.

Children have a wonderfully potent and yet seamlessly idiotic means for making their feelings known. These bratty snot breathing bastards resort to feeding the cat to the tumble dryer, snorting a toy car up their sniffer, or shouting ‘LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA’ until someone takes notice. It’s a wild gamble because it used to end up with them getting their backsides spanked or them getting the KinderSurprise they wanted. Of course, now that disciplining your child has taken on the spineless psycho babble ethics of a wet sponge who smells of tea tree oil and whose only friends are the several dozen cats she owns, kids don’t face the penalty of getting a swift hiding, so more often than not they get what they want.

Another not so great way to get your message across is to say the entirely opposite thing that which you actually want to say. I’m not talking about some clever reverse psychological mind tool, what I’m saying is making a complete balls up of it all and thinking that by doing something so far off the point, it doesn’t matter that it bares no resemblance to the message you actually want to convey.

[The name of the brand highlighted in the following example has been replaced with a pseudonym so Dirt or myself cannot be sued. However, it’s still pretty obvious who it is. Here is a clue, issue 105 of Dirt Magazine. Also, I am only highlighting this example and not the company. Biking is full of examples.]

Take Worthless bikes attempt at taste testing at last years Outdoor Demo at Interbike. Worthless employed the talents of two extremely errr…talented young ladies whose forte is dressing in skin tight spandex and walking around. Even if you didn’t go to the Outdoor Demo you very well might have seen pictures of these ladies, so does that mean they did their job?

These two savage looking machines of the night looked like they were disassembled and put back together by dirty old men who used a blue print based on the sexual proclivities of teenage boys.

But is having two skanky young ladies (no offense to them personally but they did not dress or act in anyway that could be mistaken for classiness and sophistication) strutting about the kind of brand message they were looking to spread? Does this mean that Worthless bikes are trying to say they are slutty little plastic sex toys for men? I like to think a bike should be sexy, but not in a Pussy Pocket kind of way.

If just getting people to actually look in the general direction of the Worthless stand rather than run the other way vomiting into their own mouth for a change was the idea then it might of worked a little. But did the ladies overshadow the bikes? I for one don’t even remember seeing a Worthless bike. I saw the Worthless logo, but only because it was stretched across a size 6 derriere and a size 36 bust. That logo could of said “Every time you look at this a puppy dies” and I would of still stole dirty little glances. However, whenever I think of Ellsworth now I think of $500 hookers giving a $10 service. Is this the kind of thing that I should think when I look at a bike brands logo? Not unless I’m in the market for a bike that I could bury in the desert after three minutes of abuse.

Bike companies try to link their wares to the things which they already know we love and desire. By doing so they are increasing the likelihood of us purchasing their bile. They try and snare us, the consumer, with images of sexy ladies and a vision of what we could do and achieve if only we weren’t rubbish. It is all aspirational imagery that triggers the what-if gene in our otherwise crappy dull lives. Katie Price, James Bond, Malibu beach homes and manly sports cars are main tenets of the marketeers and advertisers arsenal. However, in biking they try to clinch us with pictures of other men doing what we already do, pictures of men doing things we don’t ever want to do, and shiny objects that shouldn’t really get us stirring. What are we? Half magpie, half Gok Wan, half Anna Nicole Smith?

When bike companies do try something different to attract our spending dollars, they are usually about as imaginative as a 1970s porn film plot. It is either with free beer, girls who look like underaged, malnourished Ukrainian sex workers, or…well that’s it. There isn’t much variety or imagination going on.

Sex sells, but there are many sorts of sex. There is the type of sex that funnels into our deepest, most treasured fantasies, wishes and hopes. Taping into this is a good way of selling something. Then there is the kind of sex that two men share. It’s a bit gay and not everyones idea of a good time, in fact, I’m pretty sure the idea of this kind of sex is off putting to most men and almost every woman. This is not a good way to sell something. Then there is the kind of sex that Worthless was trying to sell. Cheap, artificial, superficial, crude sex that will leave you with an empty feeling, a hollow wallet, and a motel room cleaning bill.

Isn’t mountain biking better than all of this? Don’t we deserve to be seduced by the harpies in an altogether more sophisticated manner? Are we stupid enough to keep falling for free beer and a eye candy? I know I am. I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be nice to not be a loathsome masturbator.

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