Opinion

Column: What's the problem with Booth babes?

Browsing Twitter the other day I was astonished to see so many people attacking me. The phrase Booth Babes was even trending!

At first I assumed it was one of those dreadful men I've fought in court (and won, incredibly!) over their incompetence. Booth Babes (#boothbabes) was the sort of term of endearment his type would have used. "Love your work, Booth babes," they'd say at the start of the project. One of them made death threats by the end.

By the way, if you ever have a grievance over unsettled invoices from a client, I recommend the small claims court. There's no cost justification, even if you win your case. The IT sector's unscrupulous and incompetent assume you won't do it. Middle managers always blame their screw-up on the contractors, which makes calling their bluff and issuing a summons all the more enjoyable. One reader (an IT project manager) took my advice and dragged an invoice-denying plug-pulling miscreant through the courts. Follow @ohthisbloodyPC to see the result.

Anyway, the Booth Babes Twitter storm wasn't being generated by my courtroom nemeses.  It was a reference to the Jordan wannabees who are forced to sell their bodies on the stands at Information Technology Exhibitions. Known in the trade as Ladies of the ITE.

These Ladies of the ITE have ignited a fierce debate among both feminists and their detractors. From an intellectual standpoint I'm not getting involved. But I would like to ask a few dumb questions.

From a business perspective, how commercially successful is it to pack your stands with near naked nubiles?

How many people does this tactic appeal to? It's clearly not most women's cup of tea, although having said, that I once worked on a mag that 'employed' topless model Nell McAndrew as the face of an advice column, and our art editor relished the photo shoot so much she wouldn't let me attend.

That raises my next question. What sort of man is so impressed by a girl in a swimming costume that it influences his buying decision? That must be a pretty small demographic, too. (mind you, the readers loved the sexist 'advice' column I was contractually obliged to write, but they were dinosaurs and got wiped out by the cloud in the end)

How often has a CIO came back from an exhibition and placed a multi-million pound order based on the fact that a girl on the stand had an impressive pair of servers? Grow up, lad, silicon is a commodity these days.

Then again, what do I know about marketing? Maybe people still use these primitive tactics because they work. Maybe the numbers do, in fact, add up.  In which case, surely it's time to start placing adverts for VMware on page three. "It's important to be able to move your assets," says Kelly, 19, from Luton.

Maybe Jordan should forget perfumes and lingerie, and launch her own range of hosted datacentres. Stranger things have happened. I once saw an advert for IBM Blade servers during an ad break in Coronation Street. Is the Rovers Return the right forum to decide IT strategy? A media buying agency thought so, and their decisions are based on research and hard-nosed financial logic.

Perhaps, like my court case, there are ulterior motives for the Booth Babes which can't be quantified on a spreadsheet. Maybe, like the process of taking a bully to court, the process brings other forms of gratification.

I have to admit, when one litigant exploded with rage outside the court, the feeling was orgasmic. As Pamela Anderson might have said, don't call me Booth, babe.
 

This was first published in January 2012

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