Storm in a QVIS cup….

Updated 22 Jun 18 at 1700 hrs

‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ a phrase linked to the 19thcentury American circus owner Phineas T. Barnum, is clearly something still believed by some companies in their approach to marketing. However, it does not hold water in today’s society.

Earlier this month at INFOSEC in London, the company Radar Services used women in red ball gowns as part of the marketing hype on their stand despite the show organisers having a policy banning ‘booth babes.’   The girls themselves were not from Radar Services, they knew nothing about the products the company was selling and were clearly there as sexist ‘eye candy.’ Rightly, a social media storm highlighted this continuing unacceptable practice.

The industry-leading author, CISO and champion for women, Jane Frankland, highlighted the issue and reported in her LinkedIn blog the following responses from the show organisers:

“Eleanor Dallaway, the editor of U.K. trade publication Infosecurity Magazine, an official media partner with close ties to the Reed Exhibitions (Infosecurity Europe’s event organisers), gave the following statement:

Hi all. @infosecurity does have a no booth babe policy, which it has worked hard to enforce over the years. They are looking at the exact terminology of what is considered ‘booth babe.’ It’s sad that exhibitors are insulting visitors by misunderstanding what they’re looking for.

Around the same time, Infosecurity Europe responded.

@K4tyS @KateOflaherty @JaneFranland @infosecEditor @drjessicabarker thanks for raising, booth babes are indeed a step backwards for the industry which is why our contracts expressly forbid this. We’ve addressed this directly with the company involved #womenintech #infosec18”

The use of ‘booth babes’ has been in the news several times in the past few months as event after event bans the practice. The RSA event and ISC West in the US have banned them and the Geneva motor show 2018 has too, the practice has no place in today’s marketing mix in any industry.

Fast forward a couple of weeks we have IFSEC, one of the largest commercial security events with keynote speakers such as Frank Gardner and Christian Horner and you walk past the QVIS stand and much to my surprise and shock handing out brochures and screwdriver sets was a gaggle of young girls in tight union jack minidresses with QVIS on the front hand back.  All the QVIS staff were in smart work attire.

One of the marketing managers from QVIS said: “we have the girls in Union Jack dresses to emphasise we are a British Company.” The girls, when asked about QVIS, said they were a CCTV company but knew nothing else about them as they had been hired for the event.

Just as I spotted them I asked IFSEC what their policy was as I couldn’t find it on their website.

#IFSEC2018what is your stand girl policy? #fail 2:55 PM – 21 Jun 2018 from East Ham, London”  but never got a reply.  QVIS failed to respond as well.

The girls were clearly embarrassed as when they went off for breaks they put coats or tops on over their minidresses before walking off the stand and they certainly did not look comfortable on the stand. The fact that they were being used is not their fault.

QVIS booth babes at IFSEC 2018 – their faces have been blurred

I was there on the last day and only spotted them late in the day but I know at least one person working on another stand formally complained to the organisers UBM and to QVIS and met with silence. Having chatted to a number of industry leaders they were shocked and dismayed that someone thought this acceptable and that UBM didn’t stop it.

Gerry Dunphy, Brand Director of IFSEC & FIREX, replied to my questions saying, “We have a set code of conduct which is sent to every exhibitor and the teams are drilled to be watchful when the shows are operating. It’s hard to police however and even more complex when the companies don’t see any damage in how they’re presenting their business. It’s an issue which is all pervasive in the events industry and we’re all on a mission to remove this activity from the shows. Our Sales Director spoke to them to remind them of the policies and highlighted the responsibilities they have for stand personnel wearing appropriate dress. ” 

However, it seems that QVIS didn’t listen and their ‘speaking to’ was ignored. The time has come for the industry to stand up and make this practice unacceptable. Rather than generating leads I suspect QVIS marketing has just generated a bad taste in all who passed their stand.