The status of IHOP Corp.'s creative account is uncertain following a split with its agency, Heil-Brice Retail Advertising. The client, which spends $30 million-plus, may be exploring a review for its business, sources said.
Heil-Brice in Newport Beach, Calif., confirmed it severed relations with the 1,017-unit restaurant chain. Sources said the split, which comes less than four months after IHOP installed new managers, stemmed from the client's efforts to renegotiate financial terms on creative fees.
Heil-Brice had worked on the creative account since January 2000, but had a falling-out with the new leadership there. "Since the change in top management, we have been unable to come to terms with them," said agency president and executive creative director Hal Brice.
Brice declined to elaborate on the nature of the dispute, but he stressed that the agency's work had been well received by franchisees. "We helped move the brand forward," he said.
An IHOP representative declined comment on the split and on the client's plans for the account.
The split comes on the heels of the December appointment of Julia Stewart as president and chief operating officer of IHOP Corp. Stewart had most recently served as president of the restaurant chain Applebee's. Prior to that, she had been national vp of Taco Bell Corp.'s franchise and license division.
One source said the challenge for an agency working with IHOP is dealing with "demanding" franchisees who are often vocal about their dissatisfaction with marketing materials offered by headquarters. "The franchisees want to show the food and the deals," said one source.
Heil-Brice continued the inherited tag, "Any time's a good time for IHOP." TV ads featured warm, family-themed vignettes that wrapped with a trip to the restaurant.
Prior to hiring Heil-Brice, IHOP worked with Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners for less than a year.