The Lenexa-based casual dining chain, which was acquired last year by IHOP Corp., had hoped to cut through the crowded clutter in its category by creating an iconic image that consumers would instantly connect to Applebee's. It thought it had a hit with the talking-apple campaign — the first from agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide in New York — which made its debut in late October.So now, the question is, how do you tell the difference from an Applebee's spot from a Friday's spot or a Ruby Tuesday's spot? They all blend together to me. More blandness will ensue.
IHOP spokesman Patrick Lenow said Friday that the campaign had "run its course."
"As marketing evolves, this has gone a new direction with a new campaign," Lenow said.
A new effort, which broke March 3, is a return to more traditional advertising seen in the casual dining segment — pretty people sitting around a table in restaurant having a good time.
"This was an opportunity to take our marketing in a new direction, that was produced by McCann-Erickson — and they're still on board with us — and highlights our desire, as the commercial shows, to raise the bar on grill and bar food," Lenow said. "We think it shows great images of the food that's unique to Applebee's and all in a setting that show guests out having a good time at their Applebee's."
Last week at an investor conference in New York, IHOP chairwoman and chief executive officer Julia Stewart further illuminated the company’s thinking about Applebee’s advertising, which totals $200 million a year.
"So we got rid of the talking apple," Stewart told a group of Bear Stearns & Co. analysts. "We've gone back to what we know best, which is an Applebee's that does things differently than everybody else, positions them well in the category. … You can get a quesadilla anywhere, but you can't get a steak tower quesadilla anywhere except Applebee's."
As much as I hated the apple, it did at least set the brand apart from the rest of the restaurants in the same category.