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BIG Picks Up Ranch*1 Account

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As it plans for nationwide expansion, fast-food chain Ranch*1 has selected Big Imagination Group as its ad agency.

The 10-person shop, based in Culver City, Calif., won the creative and media account following a review that included four undisclosed contenders, said Ranch*1 director of marketing Izabela Halifax.

The New York-based chain, which has 50 units in 11 states, is best known for its grilled chicken sandwiches. Creative was last handled by Posnick & Kol ker with media at TD Advertising and Media, both in New York. Posnick has not worked on the account for several years, but Ranch*1 still has a relationship with TD Advertising.

When Posnick won the account in 1998, billings were estimated at $2 million. However, Ranch*1 has had no media expenditures for the last three years, according to CMR.

"We absolutely will be spending more than in previous years," said Halifax, who declined to disclose a budget or offer details about the expansion.

BIG founder and "chief imagination officer" (CEO) Colette Brooks said the shop was invited to the table late in the review after client executives learned of its work for California-based chain Shakey's Pizza.

Ranch*1 is looking to recover from financial difficulties and negative publicity after its former management team was linked to a stock manipulation scheme. The chain installed new managers and last April filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Ranch*1 is now owned by Kahala Corp., Scottsdale, Ariz., which also owns Surf City Squeeze, Rollerz and Frullati Cafe & Bakery. Brooks said initial work will focus on trade ads to attract new franchisees. Consumer ads, including print and radio, will follow.

"There's an emphasis on invigorating the brand in the New York area and preparing for nationwide expansion," said Brooks.

"The best grilled chicken sandwich on earth," the tag introduced in 1989, will likely remain. However, Brooks said the platform may be expanded to highlight other items.