brutal & brilliant

Okay. This is about advertising … the first will be brutal and the second brilliant.

–          The brutal.

IHOP television advertising.

My review? It is brutally bad. Watch & weep <and I will get back to you afterwards>:

Brutal IHOP #!:

Brutal IHOP #2:


Now that you have stopped screaming from the pain let me say this.

I admit. I don’t understand how good brands like IHOP end up with brutally bad marketing. Well. I do understand HOW it happens I just don’t understand why it happens.

The how? I will share two behind the scenes paths to brutality:

–          They did research.

Someone probably set up some high falutin’ research methodology tracking watcher response second by second and checked scores against industry norms and the final power point was 30 pages long <with maybe 12 pages of backup graphs> and the printed binder they handed out to a select few to bludgeon themselves with at a later date was probably 80 pages <with nice colored tabs>.

Here is the net of all that stuff.

The jingle made the recall and clutter breaking scores go thru the roof.

And, yeah, I would also bet someone probably dug up a nice score on “different from competition.”

And I would also bet that they didn’t have a particularly good, nor bad, likeability score … just something that didn’t deter them from this path.

And this is where testing fails people. It’s just numbers. And it’s just not real world.

The numbers don’t match the eye/sniff test. And in a real world (on tv) environment the jingle is annoying and the ad generally unmemorable (and doesn’t even come close to capturing any of the soul of IHOP). In testing it may seem fun and hip and upbeat but on tv it is annoying and bland and soulless.

Research led to the end brutality <oh … on a side note … I bet there was one execution which scored positively through the frickin’ roof and also had some incredibly high negative scores at exactly the same time … in other words … a great execution which would have driven sales but the possibility of the ‘negative’ scared everyone>.

Someone along the way decided numbers were better than their professional gut.

The second path.

–          They did no research.

This is one my good friend Luke Sullivan would suggest leads to the infamous ‘Frankenstein execution’. You convince yourself you have to have a laundry list of things included within 30 seconds (smiling people eating, plates of food, some signage, some diversity of people, something other than pancakes, a memorable jingle, maybe someone looking at the food adoringly, <add in something if you would like>). And in the end you get 30 seconds of delivering the list of things you feel like you need to show … instead of using 30 seconds to show why IHOP.

It happens all the time. And in the end you have simply built a Frankenstein (bolts coming out of neck and all). Oh. Let me remind people. Frankenstein was no beauty (he was brutal looking) and Frankenstein was not the guy you wanted to meet.

Ok. All that said.

I know for a fact it is a really tough category IHOP competes in as well as it is also really tough to convince people to eat at IHOP not just as a special occasion <or a treat> but instead as a frequent diner.

But I don’t care.

IHOP is what I call a potential campfire brand. It has heritage. It has a real soul (which a shitload of companies, products and services would kill to have). Does it have some boundaries and challenges? Sure. Of course it does. But if they would just nurture the fire that burns within the soul of the brand and build it to a nice warm fire I can guarantee you a shitload of people would gather around it because … well … it feels nice.

It drives me crazy to see good brands market themselves with brutal advertising and marketing.


–          The brilliant.

After putting you through the brutal I picked a promotional television spot to showcase some brilliance.

Admittedly promotional television is easier to do something good. It is a one off so you don’t have to worry about ‘brand message’ you just have to stay within the ‘brand character’, be entertaining and relevant.

Before I comment watch:

Brilliant VISA:

Okay. That is good stuff.

It may be easier to do but this ad is particularly charming because of the excellent recognition of the nuance and detail.

The casting is perfect. It is the everyday working guy. The guy who never had a glimpse of an opportunity to be in a locker room like this one because they just didn’t have the ability … but that doesn’t mean they didn’t, and don’t, dream of that glimpse.


Every working guy dreams of the ‘what if it was me’ moment on the stage. And every person who has ever actually been on the stage knows thinking about it and being on it is like night and day. Your 3 minutes of fame are rarely the same 3 minutes you have scripted in your head. The ad also gives you a glimpse of that … what anyone kind of guesses on how it would actually go.

The ad also uses the coach <Harbaugh who is slightly wired 24/7> perfectly. A control freak he freaks … but as a human, and a guy, he ends up being … well … just human.


75% to 80% of us are the general working stiffs <who love sports>. We go into work, we do what we need to do, let the bigwigs do whatever it is that they do and we get stuff done and make sure it gets done right and filed right and input right and … well … we kinda know in our heart of hearts that if we were asked to stand in the middle of a locker room to give ‘the speech’ we would get it done but it probably wouldn’t be done right <or as well as how a real coach would get it done>.

Maybe what we love about this tv spot is that in a very nice way it gives us a glimpse of reality <from our perspective>.

This ad is very well done. Most people just like it, or think it is funny, but those people do just that because the little things in the ad are managed very well.

Brutal and brilliant. A relatively thin line in between for the people who do this for a living.

Written by Bruce