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The Legendary Booth Babe: Did the Marketing Tactic Actually Work?

Booth babes were hot distractions, but were they really effective?

For a while, "booth babes" were a fixture at many of the video game industry's biggest events, including E3.

But in recent years, the concept of half-naked women promoting products at such events has become controversial and in fact, E3 banned the "booth babe" in 2006. Women could still help promote a publisher's product at the show, of course, but they couldn't be so scantily clad.

Frontback marketing boss Spencer Chen has always disliked the practice. He recently had an opportunity to test the idea, just to see if the tactic worked at all. As he explained to TechCrunch, he was able to promote the same product at two different booths during the same event. At one, he installed "contractors that knew the local area and had established people skills." At the other, he tossed in some hotties. Did the latter do a better job of marketing?

Nope.

"The booth that was staffed with the booth babes generated a third of the foot traffic (as measured by conversations or demos with our reps) and less than half the leads (as measured by a badge swipe or a completed contact form) while the other team had a consistently packed booth that ultimately generated over 550 leads."

Chen thinks the booth babes actually intimidated most visitors and as a result, the women weren't given much of a chance to promote the product. Furthermore, because of the aforementioned intimidation, fewer people came to visit the booth. For years, women in the industry have been complaining about the presence of booth babes, but as it turns out, they never really worked anyway.

Of course, this is only one example, and one particular instance. Still, it's definitely worth noting.

Sex sells... but does anyone remember the product they represented?

I've often wondered about this. Seeing booth babes at various industry events makes one wonder: "They're here to promote that publisher's game. The idea is that the attractive women are supposed to bring people to the booth, where the visitor will encounter the game." But that's not really what happened. Most people just wanted to get pictures taken with the girls; I'm willing to bet that half the journalists and consumers who visited such booths couldn't even tell you what game the girls promoted. Okay, maybe they could, but they wouldn't remember much about it.

I don't get the intimidation bit, though. The girls are paid to be nice to you; they won't ignore you. They may not sleep with you but they won't ignore you. Why be intimidated?

Published Jan. 20th 2014
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