IHOP Narrows Creative Review to 3 Calif. Shops

LOS Angeles—After being pitched by nearly 150 shops and narrowing the list to 21 contenders, IHOP has settled on three finalists in the review for the creative portion of its $30 million account.

McCann-Erickson in Los Angeles, Young & Rubicam in Irvine, Calif., and Venables, Bell & Partners in San Francisco remain in the hunt, according to a representative for the restaurant chain, which now operates 1,028 units in 41 states. The finalists are scheduled to make presentations at IHOP’s headquarters in Glendale, Calif., early next month, and a decision is expected before August.

The representative declined to identify the three shops that were cut from the review last week.

According to the IHOP representative, the current review follows a year where same-unit sales were up by less than 1 percent while overall sales climbed from about $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion. Plans call for the chain, which is 95 percent franchised units, to continue in an expansion mode, opening 100 new locations before the end of 2002.

The company is also in the midst of an extensive consumer research project that is expected to help determine the new agency’s creative direction, the representative said.

Heil-Brice Retail Advertising had handled the account since January 2000, but the business was put in review shortly after new management was installed at IHOP late last year. Julia Stewart, former president of the Applebee’s chain, was named president and COO of IHOP in December. She placed the account in review in April.

When the review was launched, Hal Brice, president and executive creative director of Heil-Brice, said the shop parted with the client after the new client management team sought to renegotiate the terms of the relationship.

The review does not affect the chain’s media planning and buying business, which is mostly handled by Horizon Media, Los Angeles, but also involves a number of small consultants and regional shops around the country.