Thursday, July 1, 2010

Riding "shotbun" in the Wienermobile

A friend of mine, Brian, called me a few weeks ago saying he would be in town. I hadn’t talked to him in a while, so I asked him what was going to bring him to Savannah. He explained to me that he is one of the 12 recent college graduates (Hotdoggers) who are touring the country and promoting Oscar Meyer — in a Wienermobile. He offered to give me a ride, and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to ride in a commercial-sized hot dog? On Wednesday, I took him up on his offer.

I drove out to the airport hotel where Brian and his partner, Kylie, were staying. It was hard to miss because there was a giant shiny hot dog in the parking lot.

I went in and talked to Brian and Kylie for a while — about logistics, how they got the job, the perks. I’m a journalist OK? Give me a break.

Their job is basically to promote Oscar Mayer and its Good Mood Mission. To do this, they must maintain a good mood themselves, and I really can’t think of anyone better for that job than Brian. (He was one of our college mascots at Mizzou.) The Hotdoggers attended a two-week training camp where they learned how to drive the Wienermobile with 40 hours of training from the Department of Transportation, learned about the company and its products and met the other Hotdoggers in the class. The training took place in Madison, Wis., and after that, the Hotdoggers were assigned specific regions, partners and a schedule for the next six months of their lives. Brian and Kylie were assigned the southeast region of the U.S and will be reassigned to different regions after the six months.

Oscar Mayer’s Good Mood Mission is all about spreading smiles, according to its website. The company has paired up with Feeding America and will donate one pound of food for every good mood shared on its website, five pounds for every good mood passed on to others and 10 pounds for becoming a fan of the mission on Facebook. Oscar Mayer’s goal is 3 million pounds of food.

Anyway, after the interviews, Brian and I went for a drive. I got to ride “shotbun” in the Wienermobile, which is a coveted position, I came to find out. In coordination with the mission, the company is also offering four people a day to ride “shotbun” in the Wienermobile and $5,000 to spread their good mood. The winners will be those who enter the most “bunderful” responses to “If I could ride shotbun in the Wienermobile, I’d … .” More information can be found at

We pulled out of the parking lot at the hotel, and the recognition started immediately. People from everywhere were honking their horns, waving and giving thumbs up to the Wienermobile. The highway was insane. At least 20 people — in the 10-mile drive from the airport to the newsroom — slowed down around us on the highway to take a picture of the humongous moving hot dog. I would have too, had I not been inside staring at the blue-sky painted ceiling, mustard laden floor or red-and-yellow Wienermobile-embroidered leather seats of the hot dog. The Wienermobile is like a people magnet, even in the newsroom parking lot.

I took my pictures, and we were off again.

All in all, I would have to say that my experience riding in the Wienermobile was surreal. I felt more recognized and famous than I had ever felt, and it was all because of the vehicle. The Wienermobile really does put people in a good mood.

As for Brian and Kylie, they say they are having a blast traveling the in the southeast.

“We get to meet so many people from all walks of life, tour the country and represent a brand that has been around for 127 years,” Brian said. They are loving what they’re doing, and that is all that’s important — and my free weenie whistle, of course.

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