WWTT? IHOP Calls Burgers ‘Pancakes’ and Creates Bancake List

Earlier this month, IHOP decided it was time for another stunt focused on its burger menu, this time referring to burgers as “pancakes” and instituting a Bancake list based off of people who tweeted negatively about the restaurant’s IHOb campaign from 2018.

Earlier this month, IHOP decided it was time for another stunt focused on its burger menu. In 2018, the International House of Pancakes decided a name change was in the cards, and opted to be called IHOb, switching out pancakes for burgers.

I shared my thoughts about this marketing stunt last year, and while the marketing ploy — which wasn’t even a full name change — may have worked, I still think it was pretty lame.

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But now, since so many people gave IHOP “grief” over the IHOb campaign, the restaurant chain has something new up their sleeves.

So …IHOP just continues to double down on weird … and not even the interesting kind.

According to Food Newsfeed, there were over 3.3 million tweets about last year’s stunt, and not all of them were positive. CMO Brad Haley is quoted:

“So, our lead creative agency, Droga5, created a digital experience to engage last year’s naysayers and convert haters into eaters. Those who tweeted something, shall we say, unkind last year may find that they’re on ‘The Bancake List,’ an aggregated list of Twitter users who tweeted at IHOP to stay in its lane.”

Yes that’s right. Not only is IHOP calling burgers pancakes, but they created the website Bancakelist.com. There, you can enter your Twitter handle, and if it comes up that you said something nasty about IHOP and last year’s stunt … well, you can “make it right” by tweeting something nice, and you can receive a “reward.” Because folks, this is how you spend marketing dollars wisely.

IHOP Bancake list IHOP Bancake list

Needless to say … I didn’t send that tweet.

I understand the need to get a customer-base excited about a product, and to market it well. But this continues to be goofy and borderline-dumb. Those burgers look delicious … so why not focus on that? Why call them something they’re not, just to get the public riled up, and institute a Bancake list?

If the response is “Well, it gets people talking?” then my comment is: What’s the ROI of that? Marketers, tell me what you think!

WWTT? IHOP’s Mother’s Day Tweet Was Tasteless

Mother’s Day was this past Sunday, and as usual there was plenty of advertising around the day. So, why IHOP felt it was a good idea to post the following Mother’s Day tweet is a mystery.

Mother’s Day was this past Sunday, and as usual there was plenty of advertising around the day. According to the NRF, 84% of adults in the U.S. were expected to celebrate this year, with spending forecast to hit $25 billion, up from $23.1 billion in 2018 … that’s a lot of cards and flowers. Speaking of cards and flowers, those are just a couple of the traditional gifts, alongside gift cards, jewelry, etc. So, why IHOP felt it was a good idea to post the following Mother’s Day tweet is a mystery to me.

First off … IHOP, you got basic anatomy wrong, but let’s not stop there. Yes, you can use an ultrasound machine on many parts of the human body, but for most, it brings about the idea of a baby sonogram. While Mother’s Day is widely celebrated, it is also a challenging day for many … especially those who are having a tough time trying to get pregnant, those who have miscarried, and those who have lost a child. So photo-shopping a stack of pancakes into a uterus? That’s a hard no from me.

As David Griner at AdWeek so aptly wrote:

IHOP may have pulled off an impressive stunt with its supposed rebranding as IHOb, the International House of Burgers, but is the world ready for its attempt to be an IHOB-GYN? No. No, it is not.

And while I thought IHOP’s little foray into burgers was lame, I have to say this tweet is even worse. It’s off-putting, tone deaf, and irrelevant. Why not take the social media space to suggest skipping a potentially messy breakfast in bed, and instead take your mom/grandmother/wife out for a tasty breakfast full of delicious pancakes? Instead IHOP combined their product with a sonogram.

It makes you wonder about the decision-making being done at IHOP. Aside from the tasteless image, the tweet is poorly and childishly written. If you’re going to have an active social media presence, you need to be sure your messaging is on-brand, and if you’re going to change lanes to shake things up a bit, a discussion should be had with the relevant members of the marketing team. Otherwise … well … you see how it can go.

To make matters worse, IHOP’s tweet hit awkwardly as the nation continues a polarizing debate regarding state abortion bans. While I don’t think IHOP was trying to make a political statement one way or another, there is a lot to be said for appropriately reading a situation and making a call about whether your content will hit the mark, or come off as tone deaf.

IHOP Mother's Day Tweet replyThen again, IHOP isn’t the first marketer to utterly miss the mark when it comes to Mother’s Day … I will forever have this 2017 Skittles Mother’s Day ad lodged in my brain (and yes, it’s still disgusting).

So marketers, what do you think? Leave me a comment below!

Programmatic Advertising Is Running Amok

Having spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle.

Target stock imageHaving spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle. Amazon’s algorithm generated this suggestion:

Amazon wants Chuck to be a pirateNow I don’t know how frequently the pirate boots and the tri-corner hat are bought together with the cell phone mount, but I have to say that the combination was tempting for a few minutes.

The fact remains that direct marketing is not perfect. Many years ago, I made a donation to my alma mater, Rutgers College. The student on the phone asked if I wanted to designate my gift to a particular part of the University, and when I said, “No,” he said, “Well I’m in the Glee Club and we could sure use the money. Will you designate to the Glee Club?”

“Sure,” I said.

For decades now, I’ve been getting mail addressed, “Dear Glee Club Alumnus.” One day, I will attend a Glee Club reunion, certain that many people will remember my contribution to the tenor section.

While these harmless examples of imprecision are humorous, there’s nothing funny about the current exodus of major advertisers from the Google ad network and YouTube. Programmatic ad placement is a boon to target marketing, but like most direct marketing, it’s not perfect.

Major advertisers are in a tizzy over how to control where their ads appear … and the Google ad network is scrambling to get control over placement, as they should be. Advertisers need to protect their brands from appearing in an environment that can harm them.

Just a few examples: Ads for IHOP, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Chips” and others have recently popped up among nude videos from everyday users or X-rated posts from porn-star influencers. Ad Age 3/6/17

A Nordstrom ad for Beyonce’s Ivy Park clothing line appeared on Breitbart next to this headline: NYTimes 3/26/17

Chuck's take on Nordstrom appearing on BreitbartHere’s a great attempt at an explanation for this juxtaposition:

“What we do is, we match ads and the content, but because we source the ads from everywhere, every once in a while somebody gets underneath the algorithm and they put in something that doesn’t match.  We’ve had to tighten our policies and actually increase our manual review time and so I think we’re going to be okay,” Schmidt told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. Fox News 3/23/17

Appearing next to hate speech is particularly problematic for brands:

Google-displayed ads for Macy’s and the genetics company 23andMe appeared on the website My Posting Career, which describes itself as a “white privilege zone,” next to a notice saying the site would offer a referral bonus for each member related to Adolf Hitler. Washington Post 3/24/17

The Wall Street Journal reported Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dish Network Corp. suspended spending on all Google advertising, except targeted search ads. Starbucks Corp. and General Motors Co. said they were pulling their ads from YouTube. FX Networks, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., said it was suspending all advertising spending on Google, including search ads and YouTube … Wal-Mart said: “The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values.”
Ads for Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Toyota Motor Corp., Dish Network, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico unit and Google’s own YouTube Red subscription service appeared on racist videos with the slur “n–” in the title. Wall Street Journal 3/24/17

And as difficult as it is for the ad networks to control, brands have their own challenges trying to protect themselves from undesirable placements. Different departments running different campaigns with different agencies cause ads to appear on corporate blacklisted sites. BMW of North America has encountered that issue because its marketing plan does not extend to dealerships. While the company does not buy ads on Breitbart, Phil DiIanni, a spokesman, noted that “dealerships are independent businesses and decide for themselves on their local advertising.” NYTimes 3/26/17

Clearly our technology’s ability to target has outstripped our ability to control it. And while it remains to be seen what controls will be put in place, it’s likely that, as always, target marketing won’t be perfect.