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

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

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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?

Originally Published Jan. 20th 2014

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.



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Comments
  • 11
    SpectreFedSen 8 months ago
    Contributor
    Although most guys would probably agree that the booth babes are great to look it, I would side with the distraction end of the argument. If people are too involved with looking at or avoiding the booth babes for whatever reason then it is taking away from the product/game they are suppose to be promoting.
    I'm not surprised by the experiment that showed the staff of knowledgeable, people friendly, but more importantly less intimidating workers had a better lead rate than the group of booth babes.
  • 60
    Venisia Gonzalez 8 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I was never a fan of the booth babes.
  • 56
    Stephanie Tang 8 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I remember seeing this argument on N4G where everyone was adamant that sex sells and booth babes work, citing the fact the time they spent ogling the Saints Row car wash babes as proof.

    While I think that was a unique example (come on, car wash babes are totally in character for Saints Row and everyone knows it), they're still likely to provoke awkward staring compared to actual conversation and real marketing spiel.

    Also, I think all beautiful people can be a little intimidating, whether or not you expect them to be horrible to you or not. Society has a way of setting up these people to be gazed at from afar, but not to interact with. I believe it comes with a sense of worrying whether or not they're judging you for your flaws, whether or not it really matters. You're not going to identify with them and feel like you're going to build a rapport by gushing over the game they're promoting with them. If you're going to do that, it'll probably be with the guy standing behind them, manning the tech.
  • 56
    Stephanie Tang 8 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I also think that booth babes straddle that extremely uncomfortable line between someone who you think is cute and want to talk to, and a woman who is overtly sexual.

    Many guys understand there is a vast difference between trying to chat up a cute girl compared to how you're allowed to treat a stripper who's shaking her goodies for your dollar bills. But what about someone who is there just to ooze sex appeal and yet you don't feel entitled to tell her how you'd like to stuff your face into her sweater puppies and play motorboat?

    I think people are less likely to approach in that case, especially the socially awkward. Interactions of this sort often limit themselves to maybe a single question or two, and then an uncomfortable shuffling in the opposite direction or an uncomfortable sexual comment.
  • 60
    Fathoms_4209 8 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    The last part of what you say - about the "uncomfortable shuffling in the opposite direction" - is spot-on. That's part of the reason I never really thought booth babes work in the gaming industry.

    I know it's just a stereotype to say that gamers are socially awkward and have poor social skills in general, but that's a standard stereotype associated with any "geek" or someone whose simply a social outcast from kindergarten. And as is the case with most stereotypes, it's rooted in truth.

    Unfortunately, a lot of gamers, even journalists, are definitely awkward around girls, and that showed at the events with booth babes. It's actually painful to see. Hence, they're even less likely to remember anything about the product those girls were promoting; their brains were too filled with what the girls represent, which, for many "nerds," was an unscale-able mountain.

    Actually, in my experience, men are becoming MORE intimidated by beautiful women. Not less. That goes for all guys, too.
  • 56
    Stephanie Tang 7 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I was browsing Reddit when I found this thread that reminded me of this article and how people react to booth babes: http://www.reddit.com/r/AdviceAnimals/comments/1y2bpd/whenever_a_girl_is_nice_to_me/cfgu3hv

    GameSkinny also hates me and absolutely refuses to give me my comment notifications so I never saw your reply until now. I would honestly make the case that that is one part of the larger problem - people just becoming more intimidated by face-to-face interaction because they're used to the crutch of the Internet medium.
  • 56
    Rothalack 8 months ago
    Staff Editor
    I remember the World of Tanks girls that they had sitting on the real tank outside E3 this year. The girls were actually dressed very appropriately... Except the cleavage part, but still more appropriate.