That’s What She Shed
Words are alive and well in the internet age, observes Faris Yakob, and their broader cultural effects are more than ever tied to their ability to break free of their intended contexts and become bigger then the ad — here’s how it worked for these brands.
Once in a while, advertising transcends the stratum reserved for commercial communication. It can be seen to have an effect on culture, creating linguistic ripples that appear on talk shows or Tik-Tok.
Last year, insurance giant State Farm released a batch of commercials and one ignited a minor cultural conflagration. In the spot in question, a woman named Cheryl has called the fire brigade because her shed is on fire. But it’s not just any shed, it’s her ‘she shed’, which is the female equivalent of a ‘man cave,’ but in the garden and more tastefully furnished.
The agency didn’t coin the term, it was an existing idea most people hadn’t heard of. They found a small pocket of culture and riffed on it. The ad is funny enough, playing with the obvious tongue twisting opportunities as Cheryl says she wants a more chichi she shed.
It aired for months before attracting the attention of the memetic machine. The ad brought the concept to more people, then memes brought the ad to more still.
Conspiracy theorists on Reddit analyzed who the likely arsonist was [no, seriously], it became its own lolcat style format, and you can buy t-shirts admitting to the alleged crime. The actress who played Cheryl penned an op-ed explaining how its viral success has changed her life, which neatly seals that culture loop.
Many years ago, I worked on the 118–118 launch campaign, which could definitely be said to have ascended into the collective consciousness. ‘The boys’ in the ads ran around shouting “Got your Number!” at people in the street.