Thursday, August 4, 2016

Not exactly a pancake moment

Last week it was reported that IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, was moving its advertising account from Dailey & Associates to Campbell Ewald & Associates.

This news set off no alarm bells.
Triggered no industry earthquakes.
And shifted no paradigms in the casual dining world.

Mostly because IHOP is known to be an agency hopper, that is, switching their agency of record more often than the "chefs" at IHOP switch out their fryers full of high caloric peanut oil.

Moreover, the account bills about $389, 000 in total media, creating just enough revenue to give the agency receptionist a $5 an hour raise.

Years ago, I'm assuming the NDA on this has expired, I was on the unfortunate end of one of these bi-annual pitches. If memory serves, and often times it doesn't, we were asked to solve an interesting conundrum. With little regard for their name or their brand equity, the International House of Pancakes wanted to capture more of the dinner market.

That's understandable, since dinner tickets are generally higher than breakfast or lunch tickets. But who in their right mind (or the CMO) would ever say...

"You know what we should do for dinner? Go to IHOP."

Pancakes for dinner? But the genii at IHOP had the answer for that. They wanted to introduce Salisbury Steak, Swedish Meatballs, and Fried Chicken. Creating for themselves a monumental marketing task that could not be addressed with $38 million in media, much less one hundredth of the spend.

None of that seemed to matter to the new business folk.

Or the Planners.

"Make IHOP the number one destination for innovative, family friendly casual dining with an  emphasis on quality, value and industry leadership...zzzzzzzzzz."

My partner and I had a very different idea. Having just read the book Good to Great, we wanted to pivot on pancakes (basically synonymous with IHOP), a food everybody loves and elevate pancakes into something more than just flour and water.

We were going to make pancakes the edible equivalent of champagne.

Pancakes, in our mind, could be celebration food:


Open on wife coming into house. She runs in the door, grabs her husband, gives him a bear hug and a big kiss. She tells him she got the promotion and a raise. He smiles, looks her in the eyes and says...

HUSBAND: You know what this calls for? Pancakes.

Break out the syrup.



Grandparents walk into hospital room. They see their son, his wife and their brand new baby girl. They kneel over the girl, telling the new mom, she's beautiful. It's a joyous moment. The grandfather looks up...

GRANDFATHER: I have a great idea. Pancakes.

Break out the syrup.

Not surprisingly, the President of the agency didn't get it.

Months later, we got fired.

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