Has the booth babe had her day?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, scantily clad ladies advertise flat screens and micro-gadgets. Are they integral to an attention-grabbing marketing strategy? Or is the practice old-fashioned, sexist and distasteful?

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

The point of a publicity stunt is to grab the public's attention quickly and make an impact. To that end, they are rarely tasteful and classy campaigns, full of nuance and wit. They usually involve something shocking - think Richard Branson's alien landing in Surrey - or eye-poppling, like T-Mobile's flash mob in Liverpool Street Station - or something that appeals to the grubbier side of our nature. Like free money: Carlsberg left £10 and £20 notes all over London in 2007; or flesh. Lots of bare flesh. 

That said, booth babes are definitely a hangover from a bygone age. They usually have little or no interest in the products or services they are there to market, wear tiny clothes over their large and pert assets, and flirt with anyone who ventures too close to their hunting ground. Booth babes are a honeytrap, a lure for men who like bosoms.

There is also that rare beast, the lesser-spotted booth boy, occasionally in evidence at shows. But his species was never really successful enough to make much of a splash in the gene pool in the first place.

What's so wrong with that, you may ask? Well, for the women that attend these events who are not keen to eye up the totty, it can be a little uncomfortable. Nothing illustrates this so well as this BBC video, shot at the CES yesterday. There is also a general sense of frustration that these booth babes, despite being ambassadors for the brands they work for, often know nothing about the technology and are useless when quizzed on specs or performance.

So has the booth babe had her day?

Here's what the Twitterati had to say:

Duane Jackson, founder of SaaS accounting firm Kashflow, says: 'Whether we like it or not, sex sells. And the majority of tech buyers are male. So you'll attract more people than you piss off.'

Videogamer deputy editor Neon Kelly disagrees, 'They're an embarrassment to all concerned. If that's the only way you can get your business noticed, you need a better product.'

Adam Baker, founder of Blottr, adds: 'Booth babes are totally early 90's cool. I'm surprised they're still used and make companies look tacky.'

‘I get them being at Erotica and maybe even Geneva, but surely not CES,’ says business consultant Lee Blair

'As a woman who writes about technology, I find booth babes insulting, embarrassing and anachronistic,' says Wired associate editor Olivia Solon

Brainient CEO Emi Gal is staunch supporter. 'Very much a fan,' he tweets. 'The car industry has them, so does fashion. I don't see why technology would be any different.

Like them or loathe them, booth babes aren't going anywhere fast. But one thing's for sure. If you're a tech company with a really, really great product, and some passionate (not like that) and engaged staff that have lots of interesting things to say, you don't need a shapely behind to pull in a crowd. After all, can you imagine Apple stooping to using some half-naked model to promote an iPod?



Picture: iJammin

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

The 9 worst things a leader can say

Actions may speak louder than words, but words can still drop you in it.

Why you overvalue your own ideas

And why you shouldn't.

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.