Keagan Schlosser politely holds up her index finger and whips her head around to address the wide-eyed person walking up to her vehicle. “Take a picture! Yes, take a picture! Yes, I’m sure!” By the time she spins back around to continue our Zoom video interview, she laughs off the interaction as just another day in the life of an Oscar Mayer Hotdogger.
“I knew that would happen if I did this interview from the front seat,” she said. “Everybody wants a picture with the Wienermobile. It’s a good thing. That’s what we want.”
Keagan – better known in the Hotdogger community as “Chili Cheez Keagz” – is a native of Carbondale, Ill., and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She recently reached the six-month mark of a year-long trek across the country for one of the world’s most beloved brands. Hotdoggers are the official spokespeople of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile who travel on a coast-to-coast wiener roast spreading miles of smiles.
Didn’t know this was a thing? Me neither…until I recently saw one parked outside of my town’s Kroger. The Wienermobile was created in 1936 as a marketing tool for the brand throughout Chicago. A few sabbaticals here and there, and it was brought back in 1986 for a special 50th anniversary party. The appearance drew so much attention that Oscar Mayer decided to relaunch its Wienermobiles, introducing six new versions in 1988.
Today, Keagan is taking a few minutes out of her jam-packed day to talk about her experience driving the 27-foot hot dog on wheels across the East coast and Midwest. She has traveled to 20 different states, many of which she had never visited prior to becoming a Hotdogger. Her friends and family back home in Southern Illinois keep tabs on her journey – and she relishes the opportunity to share her stories with them.
“I totally miss Southern Illinois,” she said. “I miss the unique community and definitely the access to the outdoors. I definitely took the region for granted. I really started to miss it in college. When you’re a young person, you’re inclined to hate your hometown, but as soon as I left, I started to miss it.”
Oscar Mayer is headquartered in Madison, Wis., but the Wienermobile is only parked there five weeks out of the year. Hotdoggers serve as boots-on-the-ground brand ambassadors. Keagan calls the Wienermobile a “PR firm on wheels.” She studied journalism as a Badger and puts her schooling to good use on the road.
“Honing my communication skills has been a big plus,” she said. “We talk to so many people, whether it’s long-time consumers or CEOs. Also, it’s been fun to create content for my own social media, as well as content for the brand (find her on Instagram at @om_chilicheezkeagz). All of the responsibilities are a great fit for my degree and future goals.”
Recently, Keagan and her fellow Hotdogger, Bologna Beth, happened upon a television set during a trek through Pittsburgh. They met the actor Jeff Daniels – famous for driving his own dog-themed ride in the smash hit “Dumb and Dumber” – on the set of the hit TV show, “American Rust.”
“We got to meet the entire crew and the funny thing was they were just as excited to meet us,” she laughed. “We got to show everyone around the Wienermobile. It was like a bunch of little kids just so happy to be together.”
Keagan recently took over the Midwest territory after spending six months jaunting the east coast. “It was more difficult driving through cities like Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia,” said Keagan, who has parallel-parked the Wienermobile in Manhattan. “Driving is easy, parking is hard. But we get great training at Hot Dog High.”
Yes, Oscar Mayer has a Hot Dog High – a two-week intensive training that prepares Hotdoggers for life on the road.
“No two days are the same in the Wienermobile,” Keagan said. “We arrive in a new city every single week. We may park at a parade with 30,000 people or a Wal-Mart for eight hours at a time – it all just kind of depends. No matter where we set up, our goal is to make people smile.”
Prior to going through training, Keagan had to first win the job. Thousands of recent college graduates apply to become a Hotdogger every year. Only 12 are chosen.
“I knew I had to be unique to cut the mustard,” the always ‘punny’ Keagan joked. “I sent in a unique resume and some custom thank-you letters that featured my Photoshopped face on a ketchup bottle. The back of the bottle had some fun facts about me…it was a way to show them that I don’t take myself too seriously.”
The plan worked. Being selected as a Hotdogger came at the perfect time for Keagan, who like many people, have been eager to re-discover some sort of post-pandemic normalcy.
“My junior year in college was obviously entirely online due to COVID-19,” she said. “I was pent up in my apartment, and that was the year I had planned to study abroad. I have a lot of energy and am enthusiastic about anything I do, so this opportunity really came at the perfect time for me. I love new adventures and this whole thing has been one giant adventure.”
Keagan even experienced a touch of fame last summer thanks to the ‘Cold Dog.’ Oscar Mayer’s hot dog-flavored popsicle took social media by storm and landed Keagan on multiple national news spots while she helped pitch the new treat at pop-up events.
Oscar Mayer unveiled the promotional product – complete with a mustard swirl – last summer as part of its “Stupid or Genius” campaign. The initiative also featured a bologna face mask, which sold out on Amazon and became its “#1 new release” in its beauty and personal care category.
“I came in thinking the idea was stupid, but after all the attention and calls from back home from people seeing me on TV, I ended up thinking it was genius,” she laughed. “That was an incredible experience.”
As she enters the waning months of her special assignment, Keagan tries to take time to reflect on what has been a truly unforgettable ride. She has words of wisdom for anyone going through a difficult time at work – or life in general.
“I received some really great advice on my first day of being a Hotdogger, actually,” she said. “And that was ‘comparison is the thief of joy.’ I found that to be so true and something that can be applied to any life situation,” she said. “You’re going to have bad days – even in the Wienermobile. But focus on your personal well-being and making others feel special, and you’ll work through it.”