January 14, 2014, DETROIT — Kelsy Puffer is on the hunt.
She’s looking for the next hot new talent, and Puffer’s willing to go to the far corners of the earth to find them. But as National Recruitment Director for Gail & Rice, she’s had just as much luck right here in the U.S. Gail & Rice, a Detroit-based company, is one of the top agencies for auto shows, events and entertainment production in the world, and one of their specialties is hiring and training top-notch product specialists for auto shows like the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. Kelsy tells us just prior to the press days her take on the behind the scenes world of auto show magic, and how she manages it all with ease.
Question: National Recruitment Director sounds like such a big title, what is a recruitment director as it pertains to the automotive world?
Kelsy: At Gail & Rice I am responsible for scouting, recruiting, and placement of new talent for auto shows, trade shows, special events, promotional events, and a wide variety of other events, depending on each individual client’s needs on both a local and national level. For automotive clients specifically, we look to recruit talent to work a variety of different positions, such as product specialists, presenters, promotional specialists, lead generator, etc.
Question: Gail & Rice has a very distinguished name. Can you say a little about the company and how long you been a part of the team?
Kelsy: Gail & Rice was the first to bring cars and people together by staffing automotive displays in the 1950s. Since then, we have blossomed into a full-service experiential marketing and communications agency, providing anything from dealer announcement meetings and vehicle launch programs to corporate entertainment and sales meeting creation and production.
I have been with the company since July 2012. I work with so many talented and creative people at Gail & Rice. On an average day I might hear a meeting going on in the conference room next to me where people are yelling out ideas for an upcoming event and they begin writing them all over our dry erase walls. Our office definitely has an agency feel to it.
Question: I am sure a lot of our readers would like to know how the auto show process works as whole, so in a quick synopsis can you give us a brief breakdown?
Kelsy: Some of our talent is recruited off of various social media venues, but a bulk of our new talent comes from referrals from those who have worked with us before. Gail & Rice prides itself on supplying talent that we have either met in person or conducted some type of interview whether it is via phone or Skype. I travel across the country each year to some of the major markets, such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, conducting face to face auditions to see if they would be a good fit for one of our auto show teams or experiential events. When it is time to select candidates for the coming auto show season, typically beginning in May, we meet with the client whether it be Chrysler, Honda, etc. to go over their staffing needs that are based on gender, ethnicity, experience, language skills, appearance, and geographic locations. We then present the candidates who we think would be the best fit for a particular brand and hold a live or Skype audition with the client. From there, they make their selections on who they would like on their team for the coming circuit. Once teams are selected, they are put through an intense 3 to 5 day long training, which includes both classroom and hands-on styles of learning about that brand. Talent will then be fitted for wardrobe and given their schedules for the first part of the season, which runs from September through April. Between these months, there will be about 65 national auto shows across North America. Their travel is coordinated by us prior to the show, so when say the Boston Auto Show comes up, they are able to make it to their determined auto show and do their duties as either a product specialist, narrator, or both. If the talent receives positive feedback from their team leads, clients, etc., they will typically be asked back for the following year.
Question: What do you look for in new or upcoming talent that would make them a good fit for this kind of work?
Kelsy: There are quite a few different things that I look for when placing talent on auto show teams. Every manufacturer has a different demographic, culture, and vibe so I try to make sure they are good fit for the brand. Take Kia for instance, since they market to a younger demographic I try to find someone youthful and energetic. Then take Lincoln. I would look for someone with sophistication and elegance. Not only do we look for physical attractiveness, but all candidates must be willing to learn their product and have great interpersonal skills. We like it when talents have a background in sales, promotions, or customer service because that means they have some experience talking with the public. For our Narrator roles, we like to see talent who have experience with acting, broadcasting, or live presentation so they are comfortable reciting a memorized script in front of a large group of people. Then, like any other job, I try to get a sense of someone’s work ethic. We are looking for talent that is going to show up on time, know their product, and do a great job for the brand they are representing.
Question: What are your greatest challenges and greatest triumphs in your job?
Kelsy: I think a biggest challenge in my position is finding reliable talent. I think it is the greatest feeling when I place someone on a new team and they are so grateful for the work. Being on the auto show circuit is a fun job, so being able to provide someone with this cool experience is great. Our talents really do love what they do so when someone comes back to me after they have started working the auto shows and thanks me for work – I feel accomplished, like I did my job.
Question: We see lots of amazing clothes on the models and presenters. Can you give us the scoop on wardrobe and how the great looks are selected for each season?
Kelsy: Our account executives typically sit down with the manufacturer before the season begins to discuss the wardrobe for the year. We receive their input on what direction they would like to go in and then we try to mirror the brand with the wardrobe we select. Together we look at the coming trends for not just the fall, but what will be in for next spring as well since the teams wear these outfits September through April. Using our expertise, we pick out a variety of options from stores like Neiman Marcus for the manufacturer to choose from. We tend to pick high-quality materials because they need to withstand heavy usage, travel, dry cleaning, etc. Many of the brands tend to go for fitted suits or dresses as options. A big trend over the last few years has been the incorporation of leather. It is always fun to go to some of the first shows of the season to see what each brand chose for their wardrobe.
I really want to thank Kelsy for taking time out of her super busy schedule to update and inform us on the inner workings of the NAIAS circuit.
(Following the press days, Jan. 13-14, the 2014 North American International Auto Show will open to the public Jan.18-26, at Cobo Center in Detroit. Tickets for the public days are $13 for adults; $7 for senior citizens and children between 7-12 years old; and free for children 6 and under.)