IHOP Creative Boomerangs Back to McCann Without a Review

MDC Partners' Vitro Agency Loses $73 Million Account After Two Years

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- National restaurant chain IHOP has returned creative duties on its $73 million ad account to Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann West after more than two years of being parked at MDC Partners' Vitro Agency. The move came without a review and takes effect July 1.

McCann's Los Angeles office had a five-year relationship with IHOP between 2002 and 2007 and during that time was responsible for creating the restaurant's "Come Hungry, Leave Happy" tagline.

In late 2007, the pancake chain chose to move its advertising to Vitro (formerly known as VitroRobertson) after a review, but it left media-planning and -buying duties at Universal McCann. IHOP at the time told Ad Age it was changing creative agencies because "we wanted to see if it's time for our efforts to evolve."

Now, it seems like IHOP wants to focus on its history.

Jean Birch, president of IHOP, said in a statement: "We've had a successful history with McCann over the years, and saw both creative and business opportunities in having IHOP creative and media managed within McCann Worldgroup. We look forward to a productive partnership."

As of March, IHOP had nearly 1,500 franchisee-operated restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. According to its most recent financial filings, the company, which is owned by DineEquity Inc., plans to open 60-70 new IHOP restaurants this year. It has given guidance of domestic system-wide same-store sales performance to range between positive 1% and negative 1% for fiscal 2010.

According to Kantar Media, IHOP spent a total of $72.8 million on domestic measured media in 2009, up slightly from $67.3 million in 2008. Parent DineEquity also owns Applebee's restaurants, whose advertising is handled by the New York office of McCann.

The return of IHOP to McCann's West Coast office gives the network a much-needed boost to its domestic operations. For San Diego-based Vitro, it means the departure of a sizable account on its roster, which includes P.F. Chang's, Kyocera Wireless and Newcastle beer.

"We are extremely proud of the work we did with IHOP," Tom Sullivan, principal at Vitro, told Ad Age. "Together we trumped the category, creating an insurmountable lead by strengthening their value perception and building their business beyond breakfast. We remain huge fans and loyal customers and wish them the very best of luck."

Whatever IHOP's next advertising moves are, one thing is clear. The tagline's staying. "We seek to energize our brand by continuing our 'Come Hungry. Leave Happy' advertising campaign," it said in its recent 10-K filing. "This message has successfully resonated with our guests for almost seven years and we expect to continue with this campaign in the future."

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