Yes, Sheila’s Wheels is back patronising women, the very target group it is supposed to be attracting as customers. Check out its press release: how to exit a car like a lady whatever your skirt length.
I’m hoping this is an ironic story as it is the most ludicrous ever. Considerable effort appears to have gone into creating the “Exi-quette Car Curtain”, simply to generate media coverage. Apparently a genuine product design company, Gusto, was involved in creating the concept – which can be “borrowed” for “PR use”.
But of course, the stupid survey with its mathematically questionable extrapolations makes its usual appearance with 12 million women claiming they’ve been involved in a “flashing incident” when exiting a car.
And 44% of “female motorists” (note the leap to all women from a sample surveyed) are interested in a “gadget” to end such encounters occurring.
Apparently, Fly Research “interviewed a random sample of 1,000 female drivers aged 18+ between 5th and 8th September 2008” using an online questionnaire. I’m wouldn’t have been surprised if it has been conducted in a local wine bar after more than a few bottles of cheap chardonnay have been consumed. Or maybe they really just make it up – who cares?
The dotty head-teacher and etiquette expert from Ladette to Lady, Jean Broke-Smith, gives the daft quote and blindingly obvious advice, completing the usual Mischief PR recipe of a Sheila’s Wheels press release.
Although the release says “female motorists can visit www.ilovesheilas.com to give their opinion on the ‘Exi-quette Car Curtain’ – sadly we can’t all rush there and tell them what we really think via online comments, just click on a choice of email links: Love the ‘Exi-quette Car Curtain’ or Hate the ‘Exi-quette Car Curtain’.
I was talking recently with a Uni colleague who teaches creative analysis for advertising students. I don’t think many PR or media relations practitioners engage in the same approach in understanding whether or why an idea might work. Do they attempt to link creativity in PR to psychology, culture and sociology, or even test concepts with the target audience? I don’t recall seeing it happen – but I’ve decided we will do so with the next intake of CIPR Advanced Certificate students as it seems to me to be necessary.
A review of Sheila’s Wheels initial advertising strategy identifies the “female-targeted” brand aimed to “get women to care”, it would “only hang out in glamorous places”, “behave like a fashion brand” and “turn women from passive dependents into active consumers of car insurance.”
Part of the recently merged, HBOS, Sheilas’ Wheels was “launched in October 2005 by an all-female management team so that it would give more back to women buying car insurance – in terms of cheaper prices, benefits tailored to women’s needs and excellent service.”
I believe that creative media relations could certainly help achieve these goals. But I don’t see much that is about empowering women or connecting with the real issues that affect them here. That’s something that PR can do, that advertising generally doesn’t.
I’m all for humour and catching attention with media relations activities, but I also believe work should connect appropriately with the right audience. I can’t believe that reading this story would encourage anyone to check out Sheila’s Wheels insurance offers – but maybe that’s not the point. Perhaps its just about generating awareness and who cares what the audience feels about the way you do it!!