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Austin Kelley Recalls Former Icon In Initial Commercials For Churchs

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Austin Kelley Advertising's new television campaign for Churchs Chicken here contains a quirky element from past ads created by the client's former Dallas agency.
The first in a trio of TV commercials breaks next Monday in 44 primarily Southern markets. Three more ads will be introduced toward the end of 1998.
In its inaugural ads for the client, Austin Kelley here mixed humor with research that revealed many customers have funny stories related to their "craving" for Churchs, said agency executive creative director Jim Spruell.
Each spot is a mock documentary about fictitious Churchs customers whose lives have been affected by their desire for the Southern-style chicken. In "War," a missile silo worker's evening is interrupted when a janitor accidentally sounds an alarm. Poised to launch untold missiles in response, the worker stops short of pressing the panic button when his Churchs dinner arrives. "Apocalypse can wait, I gotta craving," he says.
"Sitcom" portrays a young Churchs employee whose talents are discovered by a Hollywood producer who gives the kid his own TV show.
In the third scenario, "Moun-tain," a hiker uses a chicken leg to save his wife from falling off a cliff.
Oddly, each spot sports a cameo appearance by a tiny dog wearing a curly wig. "It's a wink and a nod to the people who were big fans of the Aunt Esther approach," said Spruell. Churchs' previous agen-cy, Levenson & Hill in Dallas, developed ads with actress Lawanda Page--better known as Sanford and Son's bible-thumping Aunt Esther--and her wig-wearing pup.
Small dog, fast food . . . shades of Taco Bell? Not intentionally, Spruell said. "Ours were in production while [Taco Bell's chihuahua ads] were running," he noted.
Churchs' long-running "Gotta love it" tag is retained. The Atkins Agency in San Antonio created separate spots for the Hispanic market.
--with Glen Fest