JOC ARCHIVES

February 21, 2011

"Booth babes" fading from tradeshow floors

booth babes at the Buildex Vancouver trade show

BRADLEY FEHR

As more women move into product sales, marketing and executive positions within the construction industry, less women are manning booths at construction trade shows simply based on looks.

Booth Babes – officially described by Wikipedia as tradeshow models – are disappearing from tradeshows all around the world, including Buildex Vancouver.

They’ve mostly gone the way of the hula-hoop, slide-rule, five-cent candy bar, photo film and shark-fin cars.

“It’s really a non-issue,” said Buildex Vancouver show director Paul Maryschak, who last year in Vancouver recalls maybe one booth that elicited a few comments.

It’s simply a thing of the past, he said.

Maryschak, who came to the posting six years ago, vaguely recalled an incident back in 2003, where two temporary employee women, with too much exposure and sporting company logos, were escorted out of the building.

“They were considered inappropriate and offensive to the public attending,’ he said.

Maryschak added that it was just a story he heard and he wasn’t there at that time.

Generally in Western Canadian construction shows, he said, booth babes flashing flesh and palming off trinkets or brochures have just faded away like an old pair of jeans.

The reason is obvious, as more women move into product sales, marketing and executive positions within the construction industry.

Construction companies and employees are looking to make contacts and take advantage of educational opportunities, so it is a different type of individual attending the show.

“It’s a very professional crowd that attends today, whether it’s entry level staff or a CEO – so that approach could go against your brand,” he said.

The 2010 Winter Olympics showcased that professionalism, said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.

Scantily clad women at a booth just don’t fit with that image.

“It’s a legacy of the industry’s past,” he said.

Today, it simply doesn’t sell the right image for companies that have demonstrated they can design, assemble and deliver world-class structures.

“I’ve not seen it in years,” said Vancouver communications director Isabel Ladeira with the Canadian Construction Women Association.

“When I do see a woman in a booth, she is usually there as an industry representative, as opposed to someone handing out a flyer,” said Ladeira, who works with Stuart Olsen Dominion Construction Ltd.

“She is someone with a level of authority.”

She too agreed that booth babes are a thing of the past.

Auto shows, once the booth babe staple, have also changed. One European auto reviewer recently noted that booth babes are virtually extinct at European car shows and only two in the U.S. use models or have the traditional bikini contest.

Even veteran construction writer Brian Martin, who started in the industry in 1973 and who has attended numerous tradeshows, couldn’t remember when last he saw a booth babe.

Nope, try as he might, he couldn’t recall any recent scantily-clad, young things slung across the front end of an earthmover.

“I think you have put your finger on a societal change,” he said.

A brief virtual tour of the Buildex green products showcase was a bust. Even the websites of some vendors turned up little.

Fireplaces Unlimited’s website offered neither bearskin or bare skin.

There was picture of a woman on a television, but it was Lucille Ball hamming it up in her classic sitcom.

However, Lucy was always more of a booth disaster, than a booth babe.

Harvey’s Furniture and Appliances website didn’t offer much eye candy either.

In a small ad at the top of the page there were just a few headless mannequins wearing tank tops.

It doesn’t count if they are decapitated, said Martin.

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