The Frankfurt Motor Show is the biggest of them all, if only by literal size and in terms of daily visitors, not by product revealed. And while we covered it before, this year, we also have an insider on the grounds to take us behind the scenes. Meet Phil, the rare male booth babe!
First held in 1897, the Frankfurt Motor show grew just as quickly as the German car industry became the dominant force around the globe.
Jalopnik reader Phil joined the party eight years ago as a host (aka male booth babe, aka male booth professional). His job includes posing with the cars for pictures on the show stand, presenting and explaining the cars to the press, industry and public audience, and arranging for brochure mailings, test drives and dealership referrals. He drives a BMW 330i M Sport Coupé, and since this week's show is his fifth and last one, he was kind enough to answer some questions about his role:
How did you get the job the first time?
Eight years ago, I was a Freshman in college looking for a summer job, and noticed a posting on the black board of my university about jobs at the motor show. Since I had visited the show a few times before and always thought working there seemed pretty cool, I got in touch with the model agency doing the pre-selection and castings which posted the ad. As I had no previous experience it took me a couple interviews and castings to get the job but I am glad I did – after that first time working at the Frankfurt Motor Show was a must every other year!
Who are they looking for?
In terms of requirements, they differ between girls and guys. Girls, naturally, need to be very pretty, quite tall and slim, have some experience in customer service or trade
fair work and at least a passing interest in cars. Some brands also have specific requirements with regards to looks: Scandinavian brands want blonde girls (even though it's discriminatory and surely illegal), Italian brands want brunettes.
The relatively few guys which are hired for motor show jobs (usually there is a 3/4 and 1/4 split between girls and guys on the stand) need to look somewhat presentable and be seasoned car experts to make up for the lack of eye-candy factor they offer to the predominantly male show visitors.
In any case, you should be a native German speaker to work at the Frankfurt show, know pretty good English (any other languages skills are highly welcomed), have an outgoing
personality, strong communication skills, and high stress resistance.
Is it a good job in terms of pay?
I would say so, yes. Wages per hour range between €10 (~$13) and €20 (~$26) for the job I do, depending on the brand. Even if you only manage the lower end of the range, you'll walk away with a decent amount of money as you'll be working at least 10 hours a day for 13 days straight, and the training days are paid as well.
Some brands also offer bonuses for number of interests collected, leads that result in a car being purchased shortly after the show, not taking any days off sick, or just if the marketing head was happy with how the show went. It has to be said that the manufacturers actually pay much more, but the model agency, which does all the admin work and is your actual employer for the duration of the show, takes off a hefty commission. Apart from us hosts/hostesses, some marques also employ professional models for the press days who only pose for pictures. I hear they make up to €500 per day...
How is the training?
It's depth varies greatly. Brands will train you for anything between one day and one week on general car mechanics/technology, the car market/competition, the brand's history, model line-up, values and specialties, and how to present a car and deal with show visitors. While anyone reading Jalopnik regularly would not really need the training, it's always a fun time and definitely useful for the many 20-year-old college girls you have in every team and who don't know too much about cars.
The best training experience I had was at a German mass market brand, who invited us to their global headquarters for a full week, with trips to the brand museum and the proving grounds, complete with a drive on the banked oval test track and even a little slalom race with hot hatches followed by a very nice BBQ. It really paid off, as a result the team was very knowledgeable, passionate about the brand and highly motivated for the show!
So, you worked for different brands each year?
Yes. Even though all brands were eager to 'keep the team together' and sign me again for the next show, I wanted to use the opportunity to get to know a new marque beyond what you usually see as an outsider and work with new, interesting people every time. That way I got to work for all kinds of companies, ranging from French mass market to British luxury brands, and met many great people who I am still good friends with.
How early does the preparation start for the show in September?
Some brands hire agencies as early as December in the year prior to the show to start looking for people for their team! I believe that is also when the brands have to book space in the fair halls and hire stand builders to design their booths. Most brands start to think about their stand team around March or April though, which is when most ads from agencies pop up on websites for student and promotion/modeling jobs. The actual construction of the show stand begins only a few days before the event starts.
How much information is disclosed to the staff at the stand? Are there details you don't know about when it starts?
The brand representatives and the external coaches who train/brief us for the show are quite careful about what they tell us - regarding future models, technologies, take-overs etc. it's really just what you would have seen on Jalopnik already. Nevertheless one of the brands I worked for actually forbid us to speak to journalists on the press days and direct all inquiries to the press spokesperson; those were the two most boring days I ever spent at the show. All the things we have to know to do our job right are provided to us though; it has never happened that we weren't informed of the specifications of all cars on the stand (save for concept cars) at the start of the show.
Are you allowed to talk to people from other brands?
Yes, there are some opportunities - mostly after the show closes in the evenings though. During the day, you can take a few minutes out of your lunch break to walk over to other stands and chat with the people who work there, but most people - very understandably - prefer to use that time to rest their feet or take a nap. You could also walk around during a few quiet minutes outside your breaks, but bosses don’t like to see that. Considering how many young people work at the motor show as hosts and hostesses, you are very likely to bump into them in the evening at the many parties around the fairgrounds and all over the city while the show is on.
After work, how are the parties?
Great! Every night there are 2-3 'stand parties' within the motor show halls. They are intended for hosts/hostesses, dealers, execs, and guests of the brands that hold them but if you ask nicely or know someone there, you usually get in. They're great for pre-lash! Then there are the parties organized by the SMART car brand in a purpose-built tent on the fairgrounds - or I should better say, there were. At the last show, the tent was still there but free-entry-free-alcohol-free-everything was no more, it was by invitation only. Everyone hopes it'll be open to everyone again this year!
Thankfully a lot of Frankfurt clubs run after-work parties every night as they know that a few hundred party-hungry fair workers (plus regular fair visitors) want to live it up once the show closes. Parties at the Frankfurt Motor Show are really quite surreal for guys. There is hardly any other place or time when you get to party with hundreds of extremely pretty girls desperate to party away the stress of the day, staying in close-by downtown hotels...
Why have you decided on leaving the job after this show?
There are a few different reasons. Despite my car knowledge, passion for the job and my experience, I'll find it difficult to land another job in this position at the show in two years’ time simply due to age - I'll be approaching my mid-30s then and in this superficial bling-bling world of car shows, youthful looks count for much.
I also feel the physical demands of the show weighing heavier with every time: standing up/walking in dress shoes for 10 hours (plus parties...) on 13 straight days takes its toll on my feet, legs and back, and usually I also run into problems with my voice after a week due to needing to talk a lot and very loudly. Combined with little sleep, I am quite the wreck after each show physically.
Lastly, I am 'climbing the corporate ladder' in my normal day job and encounter less and less understanding from my bosses for taking two weeks off to basically go work somewhere else. Nevertheless, I can't wait for this year's edition to start and will party like it's 2005 to go out in style!
Hit me with some fun facts!
You will gain weight, the brands usually don't skimp on high-class catering and sweet throughout the day to keep you happy! I seriously feel for the girls though, who have to stand just as much, but mostly in high heels! I've seen some horribly battered feet over the years. 'Ballerinas day' is a huge highlight for the girls!
The weekends are the worst. It gets so full, your task will shift from presenting the car to merely protecting it (I've seen everything from ash trays to sun visors to glove box flaps ripped out and stolen!) which is tough as you can hardly move around the car.
In the last minutes of the last show day, the horns of all cars are re-activated and then used all at the same time to 'honk out the show', followed by euphoric dancing and cheering - a truly majestic aural and visual experience! Some stand teams even practice dance choreographies to perform on the last day, that is a specialty of the show in Geneva though:
Rumor has it that there are always a few extra babies in late June after every Frankfurt Motor Show...
Well, this is Europe after all!
Photo credit: Phil and Getty Images.