Sheilas' Wheels is a UK car insurance brand that targets its insurance products to women, although it also sells to men. The brand was launched in October 2005 by Peter Wood, and is part of Esure, the insurance group he founded with HBOS in 1999. The brand has achieved fame through its advertising featuring three Sheilas clad in pink sequinned dresses who sing a variety of jingles promoting Sheilas’ Wheels (e.g. “For bonzer car insurance deals, girls get onto Sheilas’ Wheels”), often from the seats of a bubblegum pink convertible – sometimes referred to as “The Sheilamobile”.
Sheilas’ Wheels and the three Sheilas themselves have been the subject of much media attention and have regularly featured in polls of irritating but effective advertising. In one of the early adverts set in an Australian outback bar, Joe Scully (Shane Connor) of Neighbours can be seen.
The Sheilas themselves are all accomplished singers and performers who began performing as The Sheilas during 2006 at gigs in the UK – often at gay clubs and student venues – they are Cathi Ogden, Carly Romain and Emma Robbins. Ogden is the only true Australian of the three; Robbins is sister to Ted Robbins, Amy Robbins and Kate Robbins and is married to Simon Shelton who plays Tinky Winky in the Teletubbies and is a second cousin of Paul McCartney.
In the TV adverts the girls usually appear with Romain on the left, Ogden centre and Robbins on the right (with dark hair).
Sheilas' Wheels adverts
The Sheilas’ Wheels car in the advert is a ‘shell’ and not a working car. It was created by heavily adapting the body of an old American car. There is a second working car, which is similar to the one in the advert that is used for promotional purposes. It is a 1957 Ford Mercury Monterey convertible that the company bought in 2007 on eBay and restored. The car lives in a warehouse of a specialist company in Surrey who rent out and sometimes sell American vehicles.
The Sheilas single
In October 2007, The Sheilas released a single, (I’m So) Happy Happy (You’re Mine), produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Unlike their commercials, the trio are actually singing, with Ogden doing the lead vocal on this recording. Unfortunately, the single only peaked at number 91, this despite having an accompanied video for the song.
The brand was originally conceived by copywriter Chris Wilkins and his creative partner and wife, Sian Vickers. The two had previously worked with Peter Wood during the 1990s. Wilkins was the copywriter of the famous Cadbury's Smash Martians advert, which is often cited among the most memorable ads of all time.
The Sheilas' Wheels car insurance product introduced a number of female-focused benefits that differentiated it from competitors, such as enhanced cover for handbags in cars, female-friendly repairers and a free counselling service with its comprehensive cover.
In 2007, Sheilas' Wheels ran a competition for members of the public to appear in their TV adverts – Make Me a Sheila Star - which attracted over 11,000 applicants including babies, boys, girls, men and women, with the youngest being 18 months and the oldest 98. In the end, 30 members of the public appeared in two adverts: one featuring a 12-person pyramid of women on the back of the Sheilamobile, and one featuring them in a stretched version.
In January 2008, Sheilas' Wheels began sponsoring the ITV National Weather, with a series of clips showing the Sheilas in a variety of weather conditions. Prior to sponsorship by Sheilas' Wheels, the ITV National Weather had been sponsored by e-On (formerly Powergen) for 18 years – the longest running sponsorship deal in UK television history (as well as the first).
In 2011 a European Court of Justice ruling stated that price discrimination based on gender breaches EU rules on equality. A spokesman from Sheilas' Wheels parent company Esure stated that "premiums will rise drastically for young female drivers."