Driving Advertising: The Oscar Meyer Weinermobile

April Lopez had high career aspirations when she first left her hometown of Stow, Massachusetts and went to Michigan State to study Business and Advertising. She imagined herself working for a large national corporation, traveling to glamorous places, getting the word about her company’s product out to the masses. And she has achieved that dream.

She just didn’t think she would be doing all those things behind the wheel of a 14 foot long hotdog.

April is one of a dozen young college graduates that Oscar Meyer picks every year to drive the famous Weinermobile. She was recruited at a job fair her senior year, went through an exhausting interview process, and was picked for her spirit and dedication. She says it has been a rewarding experience.

“You get to drive all over the country and meet all sorts of people” she says. “And not just in the big cities. The Weinermobile goes to golf tournaments, NASCAR races, festivals, softball games, all sorts of places. We do a lot of small towns.”

The Weinermobile is one of the most enduring advertising images in American history. It’s been on the road since the Chicago World’s Fair in 1936, and took only a brief time-out during WWII. Instantly recognizable, it is the advertising executive’s dream when it comes to brand identity. Coupled with the catchy jingle (written by Richard Trentlage for Oscar Mayer in 1963 and played continuously on radio and TV ever since) it is an imposing presence in the world of processed meats.

Lopez’s main mission is to spread goodwill and Weinerwhistles – small plastic replicas of the famous truck that produce a shrill and earsplitting note when blown repeatedly by a toddler – but she doesn’t just hand them out to everyone. You have to sing the song.

There are six Weinermobiles, each crewed by two employees that attended Oscar Meyer’s special “Hot Dog High School” to learn how to be a good corporate ambassador. They are paid a good entry-level salary, full employee benefits, and have an expense account. It looks good on a resume, too – people respect the company’s wholesome image and superior marketing. Weinermobile drivers have sometimes gone on to other positions at the company, too.

Students are instructed on good public relations, the company history and lore, how to joke comfortably about the job, how to handle difficult situations (the “Meat is Murder” crowd is always a potential PR threat – but Lopez says there hasn’t yet been an incident), and care and operation of the customized truck. It comes fully loaded with a sound system, CD and DVD players, plenty of Weinerwhistles, promotional literature, coloring pages – but no hot dogs. Too many problems with that, Lopez admits.

The most frequent question she’s asked? “Do I sleep in the Weinermobile,” she says, with a straight face. “The answer is no: it’s not a Weineebago.”

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