Church’s Selects BaylessCronin

BaylessCronin has won crowing rights in the competition for the advertising account of Church’s Chicken.

The Atlanta agency outperformed finalists Publicis in Mid America and Levenson & Hill, both in Dallas, to notch the $15 million business

“We’re pleased to have BaylessCronin as our agency,” said Hala Moddelmog, Church’s president. “They nailed our strategy as the new value leader.”

The review got under way last August without creative incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners in New York.

BaylessCronin clearly took the lead when the fast-food franchiser, a division of AFC Enterprises here, began assigning project work to Jerry Cronin, the shop’s executive creative director last summer.

BaylessCronin reworked a series of broadcast commercials originally created by Levenson & Hill, also a former incumbent on the account. The agency added special offers and promotions to the existing television spots.

The agency’s proximity to the client may also have been a factor in its selection.

“It made sense to go with a local agency to manage the special offers,” said Brad Haley, Church’s former chief marketing officer.

BaylessCronin had pitched the business in a 1999 review, which was ultimately won by Cliff Freeman. That agency went on to produce a series of spots some consumers found objectionable.

“We’d pitched it the year before,” said Tim Bayless, the agency’s chief executive officer. “We made enough of an impression that when they needed local help, they called us.”

Moddelmog said that humor will continue to be a strong element in upcoming campaigns.

“Our product is based around delivering larger pieces of chicken for the money and providing Southern side dishes like corn, okra and honey butter biscuits,” she said. “BaylessCronin will use comedy to tell this story.”

Church’s moved the well-traveled account from Publicis, which held the business from the late 1980s to early 1990s, when Levenson & Hill took over. The Texans’ work had little impact on sales, and Austin Kelley Advertising seized the reins in 1997. It lost the account to Cliff Freeman in 1999.

Bayless said part of the challenge will be to take the brand back to basics.

“Their value premise is simple,” he said. “Food that tastes good at super-fair prices.”