UPDATE: Response from Joel Comm at the bottom of the post, as it won’t make any sense until you read this.
Earlier this year, I read a terrific article about how booth babes don’t convert.
Yay! Spencer Chen, who heads up marketing and growth for the FrontBack app, used cold, hard facts to prove that real people generated far, far more quantifiable leads (read: sales) for the companies that employed them to man their booths at trade shows than the so-called “marketing events consultants,” the budget line-item euphemism for booth babes.
He wrote a compelling piece for TechCrunch, which just delayed my writing of this post because I got caught up and read the entire thing again just now. Sorry about that.
Chen actually used math and complicated stuff like that to prove his theory.
Now, I knew booth babes wouldn’t just disappear because someone had proved that having hot, sexy ladies don’t convert to actual sales, but I figured maybe the tide was turning and at least big companies like, say – Oh! Let’s use Cisco as an example, and you’ll understand shortly why I am – wouldn’t publicly endorse the practice anymore.
Because, you know, this isn’t the time of Mad Men anymore.
So, last night, as I was about to drift off, I noticed my friend Jelena Woehr had tagged me on Facebook. It was either about something feminist-y or maybe about her dog. But probably something that would make me mad.
Do I know Jelena or what? It was a great post about why the “confidence gap” exists for women. Go ahead and read it now – I’ll still be here when you get back. I have some email to check on anyhow.
OK, so then Jelena’s friend Miranda Miller, whom she also tagged, came back with a screenshot of a tweet she’d just seen after reading the confidence gap post.
It was to “serial entrepreneur” Joel Comm tweeting out a photo of his favorite booth babe from Cisco Live, who was not in a booth, but rather in a box. Aww, ain’t that cute? It’s totally taking the whole booth babe thing and turning it on its head! Her boobs aren’t hanging out and she’s in a BOX. Because genies aren’t in bottles anymore – they’re in the more ecologically friendly boxes, like wine and water.
Apparently, @CiscoLive thought so, because whoever is manning the handle (pun intended) basically high-fived him back, with, “This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.”
Miranda tweeted at @CiscoLive wondering if it were appropriate for an official company account to be engaging in the tech-bro mentality. I chimed in. Jelena did, no one responded, blah blah blah. It’s all there on Twitter. Unless tweets are deleted, in which case I have screenshots, so whatever.
To make matters worse, after Jelena tweeted at Joel wondering why he was favoriting her tweets, he responded with, “I‘ve no comment. Talk amongst yourselves. I enjoy that conversation is taking place.”
Isn’t that cute? Look at the girls being all, “I am woman, hear me roar!”
Well, hear me roar.
It is not cool that there are still booth babes in 2014. It is stupid, in fact, as math (you know, that thing with numbers) has proven they don’t convert to sales, which is probably what you’ve spent lots of money at the trade show to obtain.
Look, I’m a realist if nothing else. I know there are still booth babes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it didn’t fall in a day, either.
Fine. But for an investor/entrepreneur to be tweeting out his “favorite booth babe” photo and for an official Cisco account to be thanking him for that and then not even acknowledging criticism of that is not a good thing. Not only not a good thing, but kind of a stupid thing.
At the very least, it’s short-sighted. Women have the buying power. We make major, major purchase decisions – even, gasp in tech purchases. It gets tiring having to deal with the same stupidity day in and day out.
When we complain about how women are represented in tech, we’re told to get over it, that it’s just a silly thing, it’s just this one event, this one company, an outlier. When we get passed over for promotions or assumed to be the receptionist or PR gal, we’re told that if we only lean in and stick up for ourselves, this wouldn’t happen.
Go back and read that post Jelena pointed out to me above that set this whole thing off. As Miranda noted, “I’m just waiting for a few of the same asshats who say it’s our own fault we don’t stick up for ourselves to call us crazy bitches for sticking up for ourselves.”
Until it becomes not acceptable to be jovially sharing booth babe photos and major corporations don’t see fit to bro-five those who are sharing their favorites, I’ll still be here, roaring.
UPDATE: After I posted this, Joel Comm tweeted an apology at Miranda. No idea if it was in reaction to this. Anyway, in fairness, he says he felt sorry for the girl, but thought “it made for a good photo.” He apologized for any offense. Still no response from @Cisco or @CiscoLive, which is the bigger issue.