Church’s Starts From Scratch

A marketing executive at Church’s Chicken confirmed the chain has contacted agencies about handling creative duties on its estimated $15 million account.

BaylessCronin in Atlanta has been invited to pitch the account, as has Publicis in Mid America and Levenson & Hill, both Dallas.

Earlier this summer, BaylessCronin was asked to “tweak” existing ads from incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners with special-offer inserts, said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer at the Atlanta-based fast-food chain.

Haley said the New York shop would not defend. Agency executives could not be reached for comment.

Freeman won the business from Austin Kelley Advertising here in August 1999, following a review in which BaylessCronin participated.

Haley praised Cliff Freeman’s television spots, citing the shop’s gold and bronze Lion wins at Cannes. The campaign, still running in the Southeast, is tagged: “Church’s Chicken. What made from scratch should taste like.”

Haley said the parting centered on “philosophical creative differences,” but stressed that it was amicable. Sources have indicated for months that consumer response to the humorous ads was less favorable than Church’s had anticipated.

Haley said agencies are being briefed, and the first round of strategic and creative pitches takes place in about a month. A decision is expected by October, he said.

Publicis handled the account from the late 1980s to early ’90s. L&H then took over until Austin Kelley won the business in 1997.