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Allie Cohen: National IHOP Commercial

Age: 20
Year: Junior
Major: Creative Producing, Television Minor
Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
(photo credit: Nathan Worden)
 
After spending spring semester studying abroad, Allie Cohen was reunited with her mom and two brothers on a national IHOP commercial.
 
What sort of fame have you accumulated from this commercial?
I had people from middle school reaching out to me; people I used to work with in high school were like “Did I just see you on my TV?” It’s the kind of thing where only my friends recognize that it’s me, but it’s not the kind of thing where someone would walk up to me and say “Are you the girl from the IHOP commercial?” People in passing are like, “Oh, how did it happen?” and I can’t tell them in a second, so my short thing is “my mom won a contest,” but there’s so much more to it than that.
 
What was this “contest” and why did your mom apply?
I studied abroad in Ireland last semester, and they don’t really have American pancakes there, they only have crepes, so I was skyping with my mom one day and I was like “Mom, I need to go to IHOP when I get home, I need pancakes, I have only had crepes for the past five months and I just really want pancakes.” She likes to say that conversation is what prompted her to reply and write in to IHOP’s [subscription] email [contest] looking for stories about customer relationships, [titled] “What does IHOP mean to you?” She wrote about how growing up, [her, my brothers, and I] would all go to IHOP together and that we all just love breakfast food. They had over 30,000 submissions and basically they reached out to my mom and Skype interviewed my mom Lorri, Skype interviewed me from Ireland, my brother Dylan from Arizona, and my other brother Jordan from Buffalo, New York.
And the surprise family reunion was IHOP’s idea then?
Yes, so [the casting company] kind of told my mom that they were going to move forward with her, and that they decided they weren’t going to use the kids for anything. Then the production company reached out to the three of us [kids] and they were like “Hey, so we’re going to get all three of you together and surprise your mom.”
 
How did the surprise work?
I called my mom Monday morning, and I had to lie to her that my car broke down in Arizona and that I wasn’t able to drive home and wouldn’t be able to see her. It was so hard for me, she was torn. But that Thursday night they flew in my brother from New York, my other brother from Arizona, and then I drove to Santa Monica where we [were filming] it.
 
Your mom had no idea this whole time?
The whole thing is genuine, she had absolutely no idea. They told my mom they were bringing her in for market research, that that’s what they were ultimately going to use her thing for. They had multiple cameras. So the reason it worked with the cameras [without any multiple takes] is that because they told her it was market research, [the cameras] didn’t have to be hidden, she thought she was being filmed anyway for whatever ‘market research’ is. That’s why she’s looking a little bit suspicious in the beginning because I think she looked around and was like “What is going on here?” 
 
What were you and your brothers doing during all of this?
So basically they interviewed the three of us and got our story, and then we hid and they brought my mom in, and they had her back to us and had us sneak in there and jump behind. And then when the three of us came out she was absolutely shocked. So the whole thing is 100% genuine.
 
So nothing was scripted?
At the end my brother says “Crepes are going to be a real symbol of this day” and that was not scripted. None of it was scripted. Everything in the commercial was real, they didn’t give us any lines or anything. So many people think it’s fake, and that it’s scripted, but it is completely genuine. And I really do give IHOP credit for that, because I feel like so much of TV today is scripted and you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, so I think it was like really admirable that IHOP wanted this to be genuine. I’m so appreciative of IHOP. 
 
You mentioned before that this all started because you wanted pancakes from IHOP, but the commercial was for crepes?
That’s the ironic part! So [my family] didn’t know, that was the funny thing. We didn’t know that the commercial was a spot for crepes so we focused on the reunion aspect and then they came and sat down and were like “Oh, by the way, you guys are going to taste these new streusel crepes.” It’s not that [my family and I] don’t like crepes, we like crepes, I just really wanted pancakes this whole time. Nothing against crepes; we’ve just always been a pancake family. Even in the interviews we said “We just love pancakes!” and they didn’t put it in. 
 
How was the experience of being on set as a creative producing major? 
As a film student I was able to know what was going on and know what the roles were. It was interesting to be on the talent side as opposed to the production side.
A girl from the suburbs of Roseville, CA exploring everything Orange County.
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