SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD/iWORLD 2013 – After my article last year about Macworld booth babes, I expected to find lots of models again this year at the show. But to my surprise, there were none to be found.
The reason surprised me, but makes total sense.
To find out what happened to the booth babes, I tracked down one of the models I spoke to last year: Farnaz Kermaani of Cre8Agency. Farnaz’s modeling company supplied a lot of the booth babes at last year’s show.
She represents MacKeeper, a controversial software company that is sometimes unpopular for its aggressive marketing tactics (we did a story about them last year). MacKeeper had twelve scantily-clad models last year but there was just Farnaz in the booth this year.
Farnaz has been working a booth at Macworld for six years, since 2007. She initially worked for Axiotron, which introduced the Modbook, an overpriced and heavy tablet that preceded the iPad. She wore a track suit. Axiotron insisted all its models had college degrees. She was put through a rigorous interview and trained twice to learn the specs. That was a long time ago and Macworld was different then. Fast forward to Macworld 2013.
“It feels like a flea market,” says Farnaz, waving at all the booths selling their wares at the show. Farnaz describes herself as a genuine “Mac chick.” She owns an iPhone and iPad that she uses for her business. She doesn’t want to see five hundred different iPhone cases. She wants demos of cool new products and wishes companies wouldn’t do sales at the show. “If celebrities like Ashton Kutcher weren’t here this year, it would be super boring,” she said.
Farnaz was working the booth with Jeremiah Fowler, PR director of MacKeeper. Fowler said the company had ten models working the booth last year because the company had a big product launch and wanted maximum attention. He had the models wearing t-shirts and skirts that he purchased for them. Some might think the skirts were risqué, but Fowler didn’t think they were too short. The models passed out condoms with a sticker of the MacKeeper logo. His company provides security and safety online and the show attendees ate them up, both the girls and the condoms.
“This year we only need one model because we are maintaining the brand,” Jeremiah said.
Fowler said it’s definitely not as exciting, and lots of people this year have been asking where the girls and condoms are (both men and women, Jeremiah said). Jeremiah is already planning to hire five models next year.
“Booth babes are as American as apple pie,” said Jeremiah. “They create an atmosphere.”
When I asked Farnaz and Jeremiah about the lack of booth babes this year, they both agreed that it is because of all the companies focused on product sales. Booth babes detract from products for sale.
“The models compete with the products,” said Jeremiah. “If you’re trying to make a sale, you want customers to pay attention to the products, not the models.
The Cult of Mac staff noticed that products launched this month at CES were being sold at Macworld. Every booth had a discounted show special.
The stereotypical Macworld visitor — a shy and awkward nerd — is only too happy to speak to a beautiful model, especially about tech products. Farnaz’s modeling company had five models at Macworld but she didn’t have any retail clients this year. She has been with MacKeeper for the past three Macworlds, so there is product knowledge and trust. It’s a good business partnership.
A typical show day is long. Farnaz spends more than seven hours in high heels, which is no picnic. Her feet get numb, so she moves around a lot. Moving also catches showgoers’ attention. She also smiles a lot, which is absolutely necessary for making attendees feel good and comfortable enough to approach the booth. However, it can be misleading to males who think the models are interested in them. Experienced models are smart enough to shut it down immediately.
Cre8Agency hires well-spoken spokesmodels for conventions and trade shows. The models in the trade show industry — unlike other models — are not exclusive, so finding good models can be challenging. The more attractive models are paid more. Gaining weight, especially around the holidays, can be a problem. Farnaz said models must look like their pictures. Showing up refreshed and looking good is a must, so going out and partying is not recommended, because no good business happens at night.
The term booth babe does annoy her, but a small percentage of models don’t mind the term because it’s a validation that they are cute. Booth models must be engaging, outgoing and pretty — the whole package, because it’s face-to-face marketing. Farnaz noted that lot of jobs hire for looks, like retail.
When I asked Farnaz what she thought about the recent petition going around to ban booth babes from CES, she thought it was comical.
“Instead of a petition, there should be a tech group for women,” she said. “There should be more camaraderie among woment in tech. We should be proactive and not negative.”
Booth babes or not, Macworld 2014 is already scheduled and offering early-bird discounts. Since location and through foot traffic are key to a successful show, companies get as close to “Main Street” (the section in the middle from the front entrance to the back) as they can afford.