MU students relish chance to work for Oscar Mayer

‘Hot Dog High’ graduates get
to drive across the country
in the Wienermobile.
Monday, October 6, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Liz Harper is one of more than a thousand college seniors and graduates nationwide seeking to pilot America’s most recognized frankfurter: the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Oscar Mayer will choose about 12 applicants in April to attend Wienermobile training, called “Hot Dog High,” in Madison, Wis. The graduates then divide into two-person teams to drive one of the six sausage-shaped vehicles to promotional events across the country for a year, said Melissa Murphy, a current hotdogger, or driver.

MU has produced more hotdoggers than any other school, Oscar Mayer mobile marketing manager Russ Whitacre said.

The job is unique, said Harper, a 22-year old marketing and advertising major at MU, because of the responsibility it places on each hotdogger team.

“This is the only job that gives you the opportunity to run your own PR agency,” she said. “It gives you more experience in the field of public relations, more than most entry-level jobs will give you. It’s up to your team how much publicity and coverage you get.”

Lucy Currie, who drives a Wienermobile with Murphy, said they execute all their own events and make their own travel arrangements while checking in with supervisors.

“We wear a number of different hats,” said Currie, a 22-year old Vanderbilt University graduate. “We wash the Wienermobile, but we also talk to the top dogs (of businesses) to arrange events. It gives you confidence and people skills: learning to read someone, knowing what jokes to tell. After this job I could sit and talk to anyone.”

Harper said she looks forward to getting personal experience in a job she wants to do every day.

Murphy, a 22-year-old Emory University graduate, agreed.

“We wake up and can’t believe this is our job,” she said. “We’re moving all the time and we do multiple events in one day. It’s very rewarding because you get to interact with different people all the time. Honestly, it’s hard to have a bad day with the Wienermobile.”

Many people want to talk to them about the Wienermobile, Murphy said.

“When we were at a store in Raleigh (N.C.), a man in his late 40s surprised his mother by bringing her to see the Wienermobile because she had taken him to see it when he was a kid in Philadelphia,” she said. “It’s neat to be able to share in a family moment like that.”

Currie said some of the funnier moments in the job happen while the 27-foot hot dog is on the highway. She and Murphy have driven more than 13,000 miles in the past four months.

“It’s amazing how many people keep cameras in their cars or on themselves,” she said. “We’ll see people rubbernecking on the highway, craning to see as much of the Wienermobile as they can.”

Harper said she also looks forward to the travel aspects of the job.

“I love to travel . . . I’m not overly concerned about being in one place,” she said. “I spent a summer interning in Dallas, I interned in Kansas City this past summer. Where I am in my life, stability and location isn’t a top priority for me.”

Currie said one downside of the job was being away from her friends and family, but they talk by phone regularly and even get to see each other during her travels.

Harper, who is originally from Washington state, said being away from her family won’t be very hard for her.

Currie said most people don’t think about who drives the Wienermobile and are surprised when the drivers come out.

“It’s an American icon, and you don’t really associate a person with the Wienermobile,” Currie said. “But when people do realize that someone drives it, they are intrigued with the job and drivers.”

Sometimes they even ask for autographs.

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