Church’s Chicken Taps Finalists

The field in the Church’s Chicken review has narrowed to two finalists, BaylessCronin and Publicis in Mid America.

Levenson & Hill in Dallas was cut in an earlier round of the creative review.

New York-based incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners did not participate.

Earlier this year [Adweek, Sept. 11], Church’s chief marketing officer Brad Haley cited “philosophical creative differences” as the reason why Freeman left the account.

Haley is no longer with the company. Church’s president Hala Moddelmog, who is overseeing the review, did not return telephone calls at press time last week.

Final presentations in the estimated $15 million competition will be made this week.

Competitive Media Reporting lists Church’s ad expenditures as $9.5 million in 1999; $6.8 million through July 2000.

Competition in the category has intensified, forcing Church’s smaller franchisees to scramble to maintain market share.

The Church’s account has moved around faster than fried chicken at a church picnic. Freeman won the business from Austin Kelley Advertising in Atlanta last year. Austin Kelley had grabbed it from Levenson & Hill in 1997. Publicis handled the business from the late 1980s through the early 1990s.

Freeman produced a series of edgy television spots that, despite copping gold and bronze Lions at Cannes, did not move enough chicken out the doors to please the Atlanta-based fast-food franchiser.

“Sales kept dropping and some of the franchisees did not find the ads all that funny,” said one agency head familiar with the review.

In one Freeman spot, a naked man shows up at a family dinner, hoping to be booted out so he can dine on Church’s fried chicken.

To underscore the fluid nature of the account, BaylessCronin was brought in last summer to “tweak” existing Freeman ads with special offer inserts.

A final agency decision is expected in November.