The ad continues with moments “between the bites,” in the kitchen, the restaurant and in consumers’ homes. Tying it all together is a modern recording of “When You’re Smiling (the Whole World Smiles With You),” a song made famous almost a century ago by Louis Armstrong and recorded for the campaign by music partner Beacon Street Music. The only spoken words come when a voiceover at the end of the commercial recites the new tagline: “At IHOP, we don’t just put food on your plate. We put a smile on your plate.”
“We didn’t want to say too much,” said Rob Lambrechts, Pereira O’Dell's chief creative officer. “We wanted people to feel it.”
'True north research'
Donahue, who joined IHOP in 2021 after a long career in the hospitality industry, has already done much to change the brand's trajectory. She ordered deep research into the IHOP brand and its attributes, revealing that the chain had often failed to take credit for the reasons customers admired it, including its food quality and preparation standards, and its versatility as a gathering place for friends and family from breakfast to late night.
Despite a strong 2021, IHOP's comparable sales still trail pre-pandemic levels.
The chain's “true north research,” as Donahue called it, was presented to a range of creative advertising agencies during a review overseen by MediaLink that began in December. Incumbent creative partner Droga5, which had held the IHOP account for four years, chose not to defend. Pereira O’Dell won convincingly behind a single idea.
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“I’ve done a lot of RFPs and been presented to by a lot of agencies, and this is the first time in my long career in marketing that I’ve been in a pitch where the final pitch had just one campaign. Not two—one,” Donahue said. “POD had such conviction in this campaign, and they were so right on. They hit the heart of everything that is IHOP, and they brought it to life.”
Pereira O’Dell executives said that a tight deadline loaned urgency to their work, while clarity from IHOP on what the brand was looking for gave it direction. IHOP’s brief was simple and clear: “How do you bring the recipe for joy to life?”
“We came in to win the pitch, but also win the pitch and produce the idea, because we knew what we had was right for them,” Natalie Nymark, president of Pereira O’Dell’s West region said. “We also knew we had very little time to get to market so we knew we had to be ready to go.”