SENIOR ONLINE REPORTER
The Wienermobile is back in Omaha to fascinate those who are curious about the giant moving hot dog. Even with the slight change of operations due to the COVID-19, it hasn’t stopped hot-doggers “Zach ‘n Cheese,” Zack Chatham, and “Mustard Mags,” Maggie Thomas, from relishing the opportunity to travel across state lines to promote the Oscar Mayer® brand through fascination, and of course, dog whistles.
“It’s pretty bun-derful if you ask me,” Thomas said. “It’s really cool because every day it’s a little bit different, whether it’s various events we go to, visiting new cities, getting several interviews, and it’s really fun getting to explore America through the window of a hot dog.”
The Wienermobile has been around since 1936 when Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl Mayer, decided to help promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States.
“It went through the Great Depression when they had it on the road, and so now it’s important to have it on the roads and continue delivering smiles in a safe way,” Thomas said.
The larger-than-life frank has attracted people of all ages. For a lot of people, the first time seeing it means that they can cross it off their bucket list. Many patrons take photos with the giant frank, along with receiving a wiener whistle as a cute souvenir.
“We have people in their 80s who act like a kid when they see it, so it’s really neat to see everyone’s excitement when they see it,” Thomas said. “People of all ages love the Wienermobile and would drive a few hours to come see it.”
Many places that Chatham and Thomas have visited in the Wienermobile included family-friendly areas such as pumpkin patches, farmer’s markets, botanical gardens, food truck festivals and even grocery stores where many patrons would buy Oscar Mayer® products after visiting the life-sized hotdog.
“When we go to these events, we set up a tent, have trivia, give people wiener whistles and stickers, measure how tall they are, get their picture with it and it’s just really fun to see the joy that a giant hotdog brings to people,” Thomas said. “It gives you a taste of different aspects in PR, especially coming right out of college, so, it’s really a great learning opportunity.”
Almost 4,000 applicants applied for the job this year, with only 12 people selected to travel in six different Wienermobiles across the U.S. at any given time as pairs.
“And just this job in general is a great addition to your resume as a top 1% of PR position and that’ll speak for itself when looking for a job afterwards when getting a contracted deal,” Chatham said.
Chatham and Thomas’ work schedule consists of working four days on the road and one media day where they promote Oscar Mayer® content on their social media page to also promote the company. They also plan their hotel visits, paid for by the company.
“The only customer interaction they have directly, is us. That’s why the Wienermobile is our biggest marketing asset as a company,” Chatham said. “We are the face and spokespeople of the company.”
Chatham and Thomas both underwent training through “Hot Dog High,” a 2-week long program to learn about the requirements of the job, public relation responsibilities of event coordinating on social media and spent two days learning how to drive from retired law enforcement officers. Afterwards, they get to choose fun “hotdogger” names to represent them.
“I just came up with something that start with an M that has to do with hot dogs, then I came up with ‘Mustard Mags’ and they approved it so I’m Mustard Mags,” Thomas said.
Chatham said it was a struggle the first time coming up with a nickname because of his name started with a Z.
“I could not think of anything with two Z’s, so I just brainstormed ‘Zach, Mack, Zach ‘n Cheese,’” he said.
Other additional routines learned from “Hot Dog High” included keeping the inside of the Wienermobile clean, wearing masks and practicing effective social distancing, which prepared both Chatham and Thomas for a fun adventure and experience beyond that of a “normal job.” Even during unparalleled times, it hasn’t stop them from hauling buns across hot dog highways.
“The biggest difference is that we don’t have as much of a slighted schedule at an advance,” Chatham said. “It’s more like a learn-as-you-go and figure out your position instead of having it completely scheduled.”
Road trips in the Wienermobile are an adventurous experience for both Thomas and Chatham. With cushion-y seats and plenty of space, the interior of the Wienermobile is suitable for hitting the highways.
Both take turns driving while playing trivia, listening to podcasts and making pit stops at interesting attractions to take pictures or load up at the gas station.
“Anytime we stop at a gas station, it basically turns into an event,” Thomas said. “People get so excited so that’s always really fun, too. Now getting gas is something that’s fun.”
Sometimes, they have a lighthearted debate on music preferences. Chatham listens to everything, mainly rap and mainstream music, like Travis Scott while Thomas prefers ‘80s and ‘90s classics.
“I like oldies, alternative, rock, and I’m pickier than Zach when it comes to music, but we have found a happy medium of some artists that we both like,” Thomas said. “It’s been great to expand my music tastes.”
Other fun experiences for the traveling duo are visiting new places and exploring cities that they have never been to before including Duluth, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; Bozeman, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota; and now Omaha, Nebraska, which they consider one of their favorite places.
“Everyone’s been so nice and welcoming here and we haven’t been there before so it’s out first time here, so we had a great time exploring Omaha,” Thomas said.
How can someone become a hotdogger? For Chatham and Thomas, all it took was to apply online, go through the interview process and hope they are one of the lucky 12 to drive six of the Wienermobiles across the country, relishing the opportunity of a lifetime. Oscar Mayer® representatives also travel to college campuses and interview recruits on the spot.
“We were online applicants, so we had gotten pretty lucky, honestly,” Chatham said.
The position is open to any majors as long as you have an outgoing personality, love hot dogs and people, and most importantly, can stay organized.
“It’s a huge honor to represent something that’s so important to people,” Thomas said.
When you happen to see a Wienermobile in your downtown area, make sure relish the onion-tunity to take a picture with the larger-than-life hot dog and brag to your family and friends. You’ll never know when you’ll get the opportunity to ketchup with the American icon.
“We hope you are having a ‘frank-tastic day,” Thomas said. “We’re frank-ful we cut the mustard up for this job!”
“We really haul buns across the hot dog highways of America,” Chatham said.