My first credential to the North American International Auto show was just a thin piece of paper with my name and “CNN” clearly typed on it. You shoved the thing in a plastic holder and wore it around your neck for three days. It was fine. More than sufficient. A security guard or someone who thought they knew you but forgot they didn’t who needed to see your name and affiliation, could. The paper badge swingin’ from the top of your spine did the trick to get you in the door and that was that.
That was 1990.
It didn’t take long before something that was simple and functional was replaced by something else that was small and hard to read. It was a little plastic badge like the server at a Big Boy might wear, or a sales clerk at the feed store. The pitiful plastic thing hung on a flimsy chain that froze your neck every time the forklift drivers left open the giant doors to the loading docks, allowing polar blasts to permeate the show floor. Nevertheless, you wore the badge, you got past the security guards so you could do your job.
Well..not quite that simple. One year they stuck a “VIP” ribbon onto my badge. Well..I was a network guy so why the hell not? But then a blowhard from a local affiliate whose ego needed a building permit noticed his badge didn’t have the ribbon. “Why do you have a ribbon?” he bellowed at me. “Because I don’t suck,” was my only reasonable response. “Harrumph!” was his best reply. “I’m going to force them to give me a ribbon!” Tough. Local boy didn’t get the ribbon. Just wasn’t a VIP, I guess. My best guess is the person at the credentials desk just pegged him as boastful moron.
The ribbon disappeared after that year and local boy shared the same media credential as every other reporter and there was peace in the land. As a sign of progress, large credentials, the size of standup paddle boards were created. One could read a person’s name and affiliation from Philly. But for some reason, that wasn’t quite enough to proved to the dour security guards you were cool, so a second level of validation was created…a plastic wristband! Now one needed to present the proper credential, and a wristband, all of the proper color, to be allowed entrance onto the auto show floor. If you cut off the wristband at the end of the day, you had to wait again at a special desk to get a new one.
Now some reporters and industry people would receive the ultimate symbol they were important by finding a lovely lapel pin with the auto show logo and their name etched in it. I don’t know what the criteria for getting the pin is, but when I worked for CNN I got one. When I didn’t…I didn’t. All I do know is when a pin-able person sports the thing the pin refusniks are very jealous and say things like, “Oh, nice pin. You must be special. I must be trash even though I’ve been covering this show for 25 years.”
Some auto shows don’t put any effort at all into their credentials. One major show gives you the paper badge and a holder, but, psych, no lanyard from which to attach the thing to your body. You can clip the thing to your pocket but you find yourself bending over all day picking it up off the floor and a reporter with a plate of handout shrimp trips over your ass, losing most of his seafood swag.
Should be a fun show this year. I have my giant badge, holder and a lanyard. But boy, I wish I had that VIP ribbon.