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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MU graduates tour U.S. in Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles

2014 graduates Joey Greenstein, Jessica Smith and Jackson Hobbs have become brand ambassadors for Oscar Mayer.

Driving a 27-foot-long Oscar Mayer Wienermobile around the U.S. isn’t an opportunity that every new college graduate gets.

But MU 2014 graduates Joey Greenstein, Jessica Smith and Jackson Hobbs each have a one year contract with the Kraft Foods company: the three were part of a 12-person team selected out of 1200 students to be Oscar Mayer brand ambassadors.

The graduates are currently in different regions of the U.S.: Smith is taking the southwest and greeting enthusiastic Wiener fans in California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Hobbs is starting his tour in the Midwest, planning to hit Missouri locations of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. Greenstein is just leaving Columbia again, after returning from hitting towns around mid-Missouri.

“I’ve already learned a ton and I feel I know so much more about the PR world, the advertising world, the business and how to talk to people better,” Greenstein said. “This (experience) gave me a whole new perspective on being a part of something bigger than myself and being able to represent a company like I have.”

After two rounds of interviews, one in which Greenstein said he wore a hot dog costume to demonstrate his passion, the 12-person team was selected to attend Hot Dog High and become a “Hotdogger.”

For the first two weeks of June, they learned the ins and outs of the corporate brand, from legal policy to how to communicate the brand’s message in interviews on local radio and television, Greenstein said.

The team splits off in pairs and tours a different region of the U.S. After six months, they pair up again and relocate to different areas, contacting local media to promote the brand and giving enthusiastic fans the opportunity to flock to the vehicle.

“It’s great to hear the stories that people associate with the brand, because the Wienermobile has been around for so long and brings so many smiles to people’s faces,” Smith said. “It’s also a good exercise in being flexible, because the job is always changing and it’s a new work environment.”

In addition, the team has also been working to promote Oscar Mayer’s latest smartphone Wienermobile app, which came out June 11.

Now, the “Wiener Whistles” the pairs give to those who spot the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and run up to it will be a little easier to get, Smith said. The app indicates how close an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is, in addition to letting users share their pictures of Wienermobiles on social media or obtaining “Wienerbucks” by scanning Oscar Mayer products in the stores.

The pairs stop in one place for about a week, but occasionally longer, depending on the media events that may be going on. With their Wienermobiles, the team members can be seen at sporting events, grocery stores, or any kind of place that requests them.

The team gets 10,000 requests during the year, another indication of how well-received the vehicle and the general brand are, Greenstein said.

In some cities, well-received is an understatement. Smith said that people will follow the car until it parks, sometimes for many blocks.

But the friendliness of the customer base inspires the team daily.

“One of my biggest takeaways from the job so far has been realizing how genuinely positive all people from all walks of life are,” Hobbs said. “A giant hotdog on wheels is able to demonstrate the human companionship amongst all different kinds of people.”

Simultaneously, the experience that the three have amassed through their associations with MU activities during their undergraduate years also help.

“For me, improv has been in so much of my life,” Greenstein, a former member of MU Improv, said. “It’s about talking to people and being able to work on the fly. In every new area I go, there’ll be a person you need to know how to improvise with and work with what you have. In that respect, it helped me a ton.”

Smith, a graduate of the School of Journalism, also said her background as a strategic communication major inspired both her initial interest in the job, and helped her make use of the skills she acquired through the school’s Missouri Method.

“I think my experience in the J-school taught me how to communicate with all types of people,” she said. “We see thousands of people each week, and Mizzou definitely prepared me in regards to communicating with every type of person.”

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