Demonstrators, Product Promoters, & Models

Significant Points

  • Opportunities for demonstrators and product promoters should be plentiful but keen competition is expected for modeling jobs.
  • Most jobs are part time.
  • Many jobs require frequent employer paid travel.

Nature of the Work [About this section]  Index

Demonstrators, product promoters, and models create public interest in buying products such as clothing, cosmetics, food items, and housewares. The information they provide helps consumers make educated choices among the wide variety of products and services available.

Demonstrators and product promoters create public interest in buying a product by demonstrating it to prospective customers and answering their questions. They may also sell the demonstrated merchandise or gather names of prospects to contact at a later date or to pass on to a sales staff. Demonstrators promote sales of a product to consumers, while product promoters try to induce retail stores to sell particular products and market them effectively. Product demonstration is an effective technique used by both to introduce new products or promote sales of old products because it allows face to face interaction with potential customers.

Demonstrators and product promoters build current and future sales of both sophisticated and simple products, ranging from computer software to mops. They attract an audience by offering samples, administering contests, distributing prizes, and using direct mail advertising. They must greet and catch the attention of possible customers and quickly identify those who are interested and qualified. They inform and educate customers about the features of products and demonstrate their use with apparent ease to inspire confidence in the product and its manufacturer. They also distribute information such as brochures and applications. Some demonstrations are intended to generate immediate sales through impulse buying, while others are considered an investment to generate future sales and increase brand awareness. Many do both.

Demonstrations and product promotions are conducted in retail and grocery stores, shopping malls, trade shows, and outdoor fairs. Locations are selected based on both the nature of the product and the type of audience. Demonstrations at large events may require teams of demonstrators to handle large crowds efficiently. Some demonstrators promote products on videotape or on television programs, such as "infomercials" or home shopping programs.

Demonstrators and product promoters may prepare the content of a presentation and alter it to target a specific audience or to keep it current. They may participate in the design of an exhibit or customize exhibits for particular audiences. Results obtained by demonstrators and product promoters are analyzed, and presentations are adjusted to make them more effective. Demonstrators and product promoters also may be involved in transporting, assembling, and disassembling materials used in demonstrations.

A demonstrator’s presentation may include visuals, models, case studies, testimonials, test results, and surveys. The equipment used for a demonstration varies with the product being demonstrated. A food product demonstration may require the use of cooking utensils, while a software demonstration may require the use of a multi-media computer. Demonstrators must be familiar with the product to be able to relate detailed information to customers and to answer any questions that arise before, during, or after a demonstration. Therefore, they may research the product to be presented, the products of competitors, and the interests and concerns of the target audience before conducting a demonstration. Demonstrations of complex products may require practice.

Models pose for photos or as subjects for paintings or sculptures. They display clothing such as dresses, coats, underclothing, swimwear, and suits for a variety of audiences and in different types of media. They model accessories, such as handbags, shoes, and jewelry, and promote beauty products, including fragrances and cosmetics. The most successful models, called "supermodels," hold celebrity status and often use their image to sell products such as books, calendars, and fitness videos. In addition to modeling, they may appear in movies and television shows.

Models’ clients use printed publications, live modeling, and television to advertise and promote products and services. There are different categories of modeling jobs within these media, and the nature of a model’s work may vary with each. Most modeling jobs are for printed publications and models usually do a combination of editorial, commercial, and catalog work. Editorial print modeling uses still photographs of models for fashion magazine covers and to accompany feature articles, but does not include modeling for advertisements. Commercial print modeling includes work for advertisements in magazines and newspapers, and outdoor advertisements such as billboards. Catalog models appear in department store and mail order catalogs.

During a photo shoot, a model poses to demonstrate the features of clothing and products. Models make small changes in posture and facial expression to capture the look desired by the client. As they shoot film, photographers instruct models to pose in certain positions and to interact with the physical surroundings. Models work closely with photographers, hair and clothing stylists, make-up artists, and clients to produce the desired look and to finish the photo shoot on schedule. Stylists and make-up artists prepare the model for the photo shoot, provide touch-ups, and change the look of models throughout the day. If stylists are not provided, models must apply their own make-up and bring their own clothing. Because the client spends time and money planning for and preparing an advertising campaign, the client is usually present to insure that the work is satisfactory. The client may also offer suggestions.

Editorial print work generally does not pay as well as other types of modeling, but provides exposure to a model and leads to commercial modeling opportunities. Most beginning fashion models work in foreign countries, where fashion magazines are more plentiful.

Live modeling is done in a variety of locations and live models stand, turn, and walk to demonstrate clothing to a variety of audiences. At fashion shows and in showrooms, garment buyers are the primary audience. Runway models display clothes that either are intended for direct sale to consumers or are the artistic expressions of the designer. High fashion, or haute couture, runway models confidently walk a narrow runway before an audience of photographers, journalists, designers, and garment buyers. Live modeling is also done in apparel marts, department stores, and fitting rooms of clothing designers. In retail establishments, models display clothing directly for shoppers and may be required to describe the features and price of the clothing. Other models pose for sketching artists, painters, and sculptors.

Models may also compete with actors and actresses for work in television and may even receive speaking parts. Television work includes commercials, cable television programs, and even game shows. However, television work is difficult to get because it pays well and provides a lot of exposure.

Because advertisers need to target very specific segments of the population, models may specialize in a certain area. Petite and plus size fashions are modeled by women whose dress size is smaller or larger than the typical model. Models who are disabled may be used to model fashions or products for disabled consumers. "Parts" models have a body part, such as a hand or foot, which is particularly well suited to model products such as fingernail polish or shoes.

Almost all models work through agents. Agents provide a link between models and clients. An agency receives a portion of the model’s earnings in return for the agency’s services. Agents scout for new faces, advise and train new models, and promote them to clients. A typical modeling job lasts only 1 day, so modeling agencies differ from other employment agencies by maintaining an ongoing relationship with the model. Agents find and maintain relationships with clients, arrange auditions called "go-sees," and book shoots if a model is hired. They also provide bookkeeping and billing services and may offer financial planning services. Relatively short careers and high incomes make financial planning an important issue for successful models. Because models are self-employed, detailed records of income and tax-deductible expenses must be kept.

With the help of agents, models spend a considerable amount of time promoting and developing themselves. They assemble and maintain portfolios, print composite cards, and travel to go-sees. A portfolio is a collection of model’s previous work that is carried to all go-sees and bookings. A composite card, or comp card, contains the best photographs from a model’s portfolio along with his or her measurements.

Models must gather information before a job. From an agent, they learn the pay, date, time, and length of the shoot. Also, models must ask agents if hair, make-up, and clothing stylists will be provided. It is helpful to know what product is being promoted and what image they should project. Some models research the client and the product being modeled to prepare for a shoot. Models use a document called a "voucher" to record the rate of pay and the actual duration of the job. The voucher is used for billing purposes after both the client and model sign it. Once a job is completed, models must check in with their agency and plan for the next appointment.

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

The majority of all demonstrators, product promoters, and models work part-time. Many positions are short term and last 6 months or less. Almost one quarter have variable work schedules.

Demonstrators and product promoters may work long hours while standing or walking, with little opportunity to rest. Some demonstrators and product promoters travel frequently. Night and weekend work is often required. The atmosphere of a crowded trade show or state fair is often hectic and demonstrators and product promoters may feel pressure to influence the greatest number of consumers possible in a very limited amount of time. However, many enjoy the opportunity to interact with a variety of people.

The work of a model is both glamorous and difficult and they may work under a variety of conditions. The coming season’s fashions may be modeled in a comfortable, climate-controlled studio or in a cold, damp outdoor location. Schedules can be demanding and models must keep in constant touch with an agent so they do not miss an opportunity for work. Being away from friends and family and needing to focus on the photographer’s instructions despite constant interruption for touch-ups, clothing, and set changes, can be stressful. Yet, successful models interact with a variety of people and enjoy frequent travel. They may meet potential clients at several go-sees in 1 day and often travel to work in distant cities, foreign countries, and exotic locations.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Demonstrators, product promoters, and models held about 92,000 jobs in 1998; about 9 out of 10 were demonstrator and product promoter jobs. About 46 percent of salaried jobs were in miscellaneous business services—which includes trade shows and demonstration services—and about 12 percent were in personnel supply services, which includes modeling agencies. Others worked in advertising, department stores, drug stores, grocery and related products wholesalers, grocery stores, management and public relations, and computer and data processing services. Less than 1 out of 20 was self-employed.

Demonstrator and product promoter jobs may be found in communities throughout the Nation, but modeling jobs are concentrated in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Training, Other Qualifications, & Advancement [About this section]  Index

Formal training and education requirements are relatively few for demonstrators, product promoters, and models. Training is usually short-term, occurring over a period of days or weeks. Post-secondary education, while helpful, is usually not required. About 54 percent of these workers have no more than a high school diploma.

Demonstrators and product promoters usually receive on-the-job training. Training is primarily product-oriented since a demonstrator must be familiar with the product to demonstrate it properly. The length of training varies with the complexity of the product. Experience with the product or familiarity with similar products may be required for demonstration of complex products such as computers. During the training process, demonstrators may be familiarized with the manufacturer’s corporate philosophy and preferred methods for dealing with customers.

Employers look for demonstrators and product promoters with good communication skills and a pleasant appearance and personality because dealing directly with the public can be challenging and difficult. Demonstrators and product promoters must be comfortable with public speaking. They should be able to entertain an audience and use humor, spontaneity, and personal interest in the product. Foreign language skills are helpful in many areas of the country.

While no formal training is required to begin a modeling career, models should be photogenic and have a basic knowledge of hair styling, make-up, and clothing. Some local governments require models under the age of 18 to hold a work permit. An attractive physical appearance is necessary to become a successful model. A model should also have flawless skin, healthy hair, and attractive facial features. Models must be within certain ranges for height, weight, and dress or coat size in order to meet the practical needs of fashion designers, photographers, and advertisers. Requirements may change slightly from time to time as our society’s perceptions about physical beauty change; however, most fashion designers feel their clothing looks its best on tall, thin models. Although physical requirements may be relaxed for some types of modeling jobs, opportunities for those who do not meet these basic requirements are limited.

Because a model’s career depends on preservation of his or her physical characteristics, models must control their diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep in order to stay healthy. Haircuts, pedicures, and manicures are necessary work-related expenses for models.

In addition to possessing physical beauty, models must be photogenic. The ability to relate to the camera in order to capture the desired look on film is essential and agents test prospective models using snapshots or professional photographs. For photographic and runway work, models must be able to move gracefully and confidently. Training in acting, voice, and dance is useful and allows a model to be considered for television work. Foreign language skills are useful because successful models travel frequently to foreign countries.

Since models must interact with a large number of people, personality plays an important role in success. Models must be professional, polite, and prompt; every contact could lead to future employment. Organizational skills are necessary to manage personal lives, financial matters, and busy work and travel schedules. Because competition for jobs is high and clients’ needs are very specific, patience and persistence are essential.

Modeling schools provide training in posing, walking, make-up application, and other basic tasks, but do not necessarily lead to job opportunities. In fact, many agents prefer beginning models with little or no previous experience and discourage models from attending modeling schools and purchasing professional photographs. A model’s selection of an agency is an important factor for advancement in the occupation. The better the reputation and skill of the agency, the more assignments a model is likely to get. Most clients prefer to work with agents so it is very difficult for a model to pursue a freelance career.

Agents continually scout for new faces and many of the top models are discovered in this way. Most agencies review snapshots or have open calls, where models are seen in person; this service is usually provided free of charge. Some agencies sponsor modeling contests and searches. Very few people who send in snapshots or attend open calls are offered contracts.

Agencies advise models on how to dress, wear make-up, and conduct themselves properly during go-sees and bookings. Because models’ advancement depends on their previous work, development of a good portfolio is key to getting assignments. Models accumulate and display current tear sheets—examples of a model’s editorial print work—and testing photographs in the portfolio. The higher the quality and currency of the photos in the portfolio, the more likely the model will find work.

Demonstrators and product promoters who perform well and show leadership ability may advance to other marketing and sales occupations or open their own businesses. Because modeling careers are relatively short, most eventually transfer to other occupations.

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

The overall employment of demonstrators, product promoters, and models is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2008. Job growth should be driven by growth in the number and size of trade shows and growth in the personnel supply services industry, which is among the fastest growing industries in the Nation. Additional job openings will arise from the need to replace demonstrators, product promoters, and models who transfer to other occupations, retire, or stop working for other reasons.

Job openings should be plentiful for demonstrators and product promoters through the year 2008. Employers may have difficulty finding qualified demonstrators who are willing to fill part-time, short term positions. In addition, product demonstration is considered a very effective marketing tool. Job growth should occur as firms devote a greater percentage of marketing budgets to product demonstration.

Because modeling is considered a glamorous occupation and there is a lack of formal entry requirements, those who wish to pursue a modeling career can expect keen competition for jobs. The modeling profession typically attracts many more job seekers than there are job openings available. Only models that closely meet the unique requirements of the occupation will achieve regular employment. The increasing diversification of the general population should require models representative of more diverse racial and ethnic groups. Work for male models should also increase as society becomes more receptive to the marketing of men’s fashions. Because fashions change frequently, demand for a model’s "look" may fluctuate; most models experience periods of unemployment.

Employment of demonstrators, product promoters, and models is affected by downturns in the business cycle. Many firms tend to reduce advertising budgets during recessions.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median hourly earnings of demonstrators and product promoters were $8.14 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $6.95 and $9.71. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.17 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $13.16.

Employers of demonstrators, product promoters, and models generally pay for job-related travel expenses.

Earnings vary for different types of modeling and depend on the experience and reputation of the model. Female models typically earn more than male models for similar work. Models’ hourly earnings can be relatively high, particularly for supermodels and others in high demand, but models may not have work every day, and jobs may last only a few hours. Models occasionally receive clothing or clothing discounts instead of or in addition to regular earnings. Almost all models work with agents and pay 15 to 20 percent of their earnings to receive an agent’s services. Models who do not find immediate work may receive payments, called advances, from agents to cover promotional and living expenses. Models, like other self-employed workers, must provide their own health and retirement benefits.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Demonstrators, product promoters, and models create public interest in buying clothing and products. Related marketing and sales occupations include retail sales workers, sales representatives, travel agents, insurance agents and brokers, and real estate agents and brokers.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

For information about careers in modeling contact:

  • The Models Guild, Office and Professional Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC, 265 W. 14th Street, Suite 203, New York, NY 10011.
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