Booth babes at #CESlive: The next generation!

In years past, CES exhibitors used a plethora of scantily clad women to titillate attendees and draw attention to their consumer electronics products and services. As society matured, the practice became less and less acceptable, and those that were slow to change with the times began drawing angry feedback from those who felt the women involved were being exploited, and the tone they were setting was simply inappropriate. Well, this year at #CESlive the infamous "booth babes" were almost nowhere to be found. In their place were a lot of beautiful, bright, articulate women — and men! — explaining and demonstrating some amazing gadgets.

That companies overwhelmingly still tend to hire attractive public relations and marketing people, especially when they're female, could still be seen as a disservice or even a new manifestation of the same problem. Just like bright, aesthetically pleasing signs draw our attention, millions of years of evolution have made it so we, as humans, are drawn to bright, aesthetically pleasing people as well (regardless of gender).

Unfortunately, not all the marketing people I met were up to the task. Some, clearly, were hired on looks and looks alone. That still needs to change. Being good looking might get a glance, but being able to transfer that initial human engagement into interest in the product, being about to express its value, and being able to make the product shine, is what gets attention — and sales.

Personally, I don't find it offensive to see beautiful women selling products as long as they're every bit as bright and articulate as they are beautiful. So yes, the era of booth babes seems to be over, and in its place a more traditional, idealized marketing model. Is that a sign that we, as a society, are finally making progress? That we're going too far? That we're not going far enough? Let me know!

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Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

Booth babes at #CESlive: The next generation!


Last tech event I was at their were a quite a few girls hired purely on their looks (Gadget show live). Know this is bad, but the blow is softened if they at least smile and are polite to customers, which not all of them were.

At one stand the girls looked extremely bored and like it was a chore to be their, while another was actully quite snarky.

They were selling speakers and were on the speaker section, surrounded by the big names like Boss etc. So I went up to find out what was so special about there speakers and to hear the marketing pitch I assumed they would have. Nope. On asking the question 'So what is this?' meaning, 'what makes this overpriced thing here more special than the name brand stuff over their?' She replied 'It's a speaker' looking at me like I was a compete idiot! I polited thanked her and walked away.

Saying that though, at the same event I got chatting to a very intelligent girl (whom, yes, was attractive, but that should make no difference) who knew the product inside and out, backwards and forwards. She stoop for ages explaining everything too us and happy answered every question posed to her, all with a smile on her face and a genuine happiness to be their. Male or female, young or old, attractive or unattractive, that's the type of marketing people you want. Ones that engage the costumer and build a intresting in the product, not in the person selling it.

The author pulls off the combo of great looks with a great brain better than any of them.

Perhaps it is progress albeit slow. Well dressed people male or female who are knowledgeable and articulate about the products they represent would be ideal. But like you said we are conditioned to what Western society tells us is beautiful to draw us in. The film industry still milks it going on a 100 years. Not sure it has anything to do with evolution. But CES made a brave step and all involved should be commended.

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If you think it's bad here in the west, goto the east in China or Japan. It's booth babe extreme over there.. It's as much a culture thing as it is anything.

Though, I personally have to wonder if this cause against models is totally impartial. Thats what booth babes are, models really. There is a place / time for models you know. Models need to make a living too. It's still a valid and legal job description last time I looked.

"As society matured, the practice became less and less acceptable, and those that were slow to change with the times began drawing angry feedback from those who felt the women involved were being exploited, and the tone they were setting was simply inappropriate."

Wait, so you're saying that society just matured this year? Wasn't there booth babes and more last year at CES?

Here is the ironic thing though ...

When it comes to booth babes (and people in general I guess), we are being told that looks shouldn't matter so much, and it is what's on the inside that counts. Nevermind if they're over 300lbs and look like a sumo wrestler when they get naked; they're still beautiful people inside. But yet when a new gadget is released, you see long discussions about how 'sexy' or not it is, and people saying that they won't go anywhere near it because it's 'ugly'. In other words, we've got people trying to tell us that looks don't matter in humans, but we're supposed to gauge inanimate objects based on their sex appeal. And if you really don't care what a gadget looks like, there must be something wrong with you. (Yes, I actually had someone tell me this.)

This kind of ass-backwards thinking really bothers me, to the point that it has actually kept me awake at night. I honestly think I belong in a different era, and was simply born at the wrong time.

Nothing wrong with having beautiful women, I appreciate all types of beauty and we are culturally drawn to it. Gadgets and signs are no exception to this rule. You could say that this is wrong or we should as a culture change it but at this moment it is the manner we are wired. There are many various reasons for this but perhaps that is better for a Zen and Tech podcast.

But there is a difference between a model and a spokesmodel and they both serve a different purpose. Charisma goes a long way and character is made not seen. We all have our own special qualities.

So why is it that if we are attracted to beauty, Male reps can be fat, old and generally unattractive and female reps cannot?

Striatic, because tech is still an industry that is predominantly male. I'm sure that if the demographic for a product was a gay male, they would have nice looking guys as the reps and not focus on the women as much. The goal is to have reps that will cast the widest net for your target demographic.

What I don't get is how you can exploit a person for their looks as a booth rep, but not for their brains, or great personality. Looks are just an attribute, the same as personality, and intelligence. Are you exploiting charismatic people by only using charismatic people as your booth reps? No, you are playing to their strengths. IMO, the same applies to looks or brains.

That the industry is predominately male is, in part, because the industry broadcasts a message that discourages women to enter the industry.

That message is sent by having the public face of the industry being attractive women and ugly men.

I'm not saying that attractiveness should be discounted, but if you want women to be attracted to the industry, and you're intellectually honest, you've got to cull the ugly male reps. All of them.

Oh I agree that ugly male reps don't do anything to bring in female interest, and being a male that is both fat and ugly, I should know.

My issue wasn't so much with the babes vs beasts nature of your post, it was really geared toward the idea that you are somehow "exploiting" the good-looking people you hire as your booth attendants.

Yes but studies have shown that attractive people tend to earn more. The reason is that, as you said in another post, people are drawn to things that are attractive.

I don't understand how using ultra-hot women to sell an item or draw a crowd is exploiting the women. They are being paid a fair wage. They aren't forced to do this job. To me it is more like they are exploiting the consumers. Using natural human desires to gain an advantage when selling a product.

I do agree though that a pretty face only goes so far. It might lure me over, but there better be someone who knows what they are talking about, and preferably the person attached to the pretty face.

I really missed the booth babes. Eye candy is sweet. And I think I'm smart enough to enjoy them for what they are and view the product behind them for what they are.

One thing I have noticed Georgia is if the person is dressed comfortably yet looking professional, they are more focused on the product they are promoting and not how uncomfortable they are in the outfit. By the way, I love your articles and your sexy brain! Keep up the great work.

No the JellyFish case was really light made out of some polyurethane foam design. It was durable feeling but light as can be thought it was large. If you have young children and they use the iPad Mini I think that it would be a wonderful case to use.

I can't speak for CES in particular, but I think there has been a change in general, female booth "babes" aren't as frequent as it used to be. Personally I don't believe that the progress of values and moral is the reason, but that scantily clad women means less revenue based on negative feedbacks. Women hold more purchase power today, which means an actual economic impact on services that don't cater to their preferences. Revenue drives decisions concerning having booth models or not and angry feedback can change those decisions.

And there are not only female booth models. I've participated in some exhibitions myself but not within technology gadgets.