Sometime in the early 1990s, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna Kylie Hodges ’11, of Madison, attended an audition for an Oscar Mayer “Sing the Jingle” contest. She was just a little link then, but she had big dreams of winning the contest and appearing in an Oscar Mayer commercial.
While Hodges waited her turn to “wish she was an Oscar Mayer wiener,” she caught her first glimpse of the hotdoggers and the iconic Wienermobile.
Although the Wienermobile has been on the road for 75 years, the Oscar Mayer Hotdogger Program didn’t begin until 1988, with 12 college graduates hired to drive the huge, motorized hotdog for a full year.
Since then, there have been 23 groups of hotdoggers, with the 24th currently traveling coast to coast in six different Wienermobile vehicles.
Hodges may not have won the jingle contest, but today she goes by “Ketchup Kylie” and was one of the lucky few chosen as part of the latest hotdogger team.
“This job is very competitive,” Hodges said. “There were 1,500 applicants, and they chose 12. When it comes down to it, between you and the person next to you who is equally qualified for the position, you need to prove what it is that makes you sparkle; what makes you unique.”
It was her mom who suggested Hodges apply for the hotdogger job after graduating from UW Oshkosh with a radio-TV-film degree in spring 2011. Hodges never imagined she would get a job that only 350 people in the world have ever had.
“Generally, they look for public relations, marketing, journalism or business majors,” Hodges said. “But everyone is encouraged to apply. It doesn’t matter what you study in school, as long as you graduate.”
Since Hodges began her job as a hotdogger last summer, she has learned valuable lessons about herself and her relationships with others, as she travels all over the country. Hodges described her job as one giant road trip, because she is usually in a different city every week.
“I live in hotels for the whole year,” Hodges said. “I live out of one suitcase. Before this job, I thought that was impossible. But now I think even with one suitcase, I carry too much.”
Hodges said when she’s not working; she’s sightseeing. No day is alike in the life of a hotdogger. When they are not driving to the next city, Hodges and her partner take the Wienermobile to events scheduled by Oscar Mayer.
“It ranges anywhere from taking the Wienermobile to grocery stores, parades, fairs, even libraries and handing out coupons, taking free photos of consumers in front of the vehicle, interacting with consumers and talking about the brand,” Hodges said. “I also distribute press releases and execute interviews on a weekly basis with local media in nearly every city I’m in.”
Not even a month after Hodges took the job, the Wienermobile turned 75. Oscar Mayer threw a special birthday celebration in New York City, and Hodges was lucky enough to have been able to participate.
“My partner, Dylan, and I were interviewed live for five minutes on CNN American Morning, CNN’s morning show,” Hodges said. “We also interviewed with the New York Financial Press, and AOL.com did a segment on us called, ‘You’ve Got Wienermobile’ that was featured on the homepage.”
An Associated Press photographer accompanied Hodges and her partner as they joined the vice president of Oscar Mayer to ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.
“I was on the floor with the traders blowing wiener whistles while the bell rang,” Hodges said.
While in New York City, Hodges and her partner also had the opportunity to film a short segment airing on the TODAY Show during the first week of January called, “Sara in the City.” Reporter Sara Haines spent the day with Hodges and her partner learning what it takes to be a hotdogger for the day.
“Within six months of graduating college, I can say that I have been on CNN, AOL.com and the TODAY Show,” Hodges said. “I still can’t believe it, honestly.”
As the hotdoggers travel across the country, they also have the opportunity to meet all kinds of different people. The Wienermobile attracts people of all ages.
“The great thing about the Wienermobile is that it brings out the good in everyone,” Hodges said. “I have met really kind families all across the country. If I am bringing a little joy for a few minutes in somebody’s day, I know I have made a difference.”
Hodges’ advice to current UW Oshkosh students is to always think ahead and ask yourself if what you’re doing today will help you in the future.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box,” Hodges said. “That goes for everything from what to be involved with for organizations on campus, to applying for jobs after graduation.”
When Hodges finishes her career as a hotdogger this June, she hopes to move to Los Angeles and work in the TV industry. She knows the experience she has gained in public relations and marketing as a hotdogger, will greatly benefit her success in the TV business.
“Ultimately, I would like to become a television producer and on-air personality,” Hodges said. “I would love to be hosting my own talk show someday. Is Oprah still looking for a replacement?”
- If interested in learning more about life inside the Wienermobile or in becoming a hotdogger yourself, visit hotdoggerblog.com.