IHOP Eyes MDC’s Vitro for $80 Mil. Biz

LOS ANGELES IHOP is in final negotiations to name MDC Partners’ VitroRobertson to handle creative chores on its $80 million ad account, according to sources.

An IHOP representative declined comment and said a formal announcement would be issued later today.

Neither the San Diego-based agency nor the other finalists—the incumbent, Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson here, and independent Tactic, Santa Monica, Calif.—could be reached for comment.

Russel Wohlwerth of Ark Advisors, who also was not available, led the search.

The decision marks the end of a review that began in September shortly after IHOP acquired Applebee’s. Around the same time, that chain’s $180 million ad business shifted in a review to McCann’s New York headquarters.

Creative director Richard Mahan, who led IHOP campaigns at McCann for six years, departed to start Tactic in July. Simon Little, evp, account planning director, who also worked on IHOP, left McCann over the summer.

The IHOP TV work currently airing was fashioned by Mahan, acting as a freelance cd for McCann shortly after his departure from the agency’s staff.

Glendale, Calif.-based IHOP spent $80 million in measured media in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Media duties, held by Universal McCann, were not part of the review.