Check out this 1969 IHOP spot that resurfaced around the internet this week. It is sixty seconds of wrong, from the polyester-clad balloonatic family tripping through a park in slo-mo to the unfortunate non-breakfast meals served at the table and most of all, the mopey sounding sad clown anthem apparently voiced by a syncopated Toulouse Lautrec on a helium binge. The tremolo track sounds as if they threaded the projector wrong. This ad lets its freak flag fly, and the effect is compellingly jaw-dropping…
Go ahead, make the easy drug references and try to explain away the cascading series of bad choices that lend this entire production a feeling of a badly-transferred vintage pharmaceutial ad for schizophrenia. This ad deserves the abuse. You can try to write it off to an unfortunate era but Led Zeppelin released their first album in 1969 and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. The only plausible explanation could be that people were distracted by social upheaval.
But there’s one part of this experience that makes me wistfully nostalgic for IHOP. One image that sticks with me that still resonates powerfully for the brand: it’s iconic architecture. I don’t know if it would be classified as “Googie” or “Populuxe” or both; all I know is that the combination of a Disney-fied Old World Tudor with that steeply-pitched blue roof screamed “International House Of Pancakes” when I was growing up. It was fun, distinctive and absolutely unmistakable.
Compare then…and now. And tell me if the rising power of the line-item set doesn’t bum you out too.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79