KFC Puts the Heat on BBDO

NEW YORK — BBDO last week presented new creative concepts to KFC under increasing pressure from the $200 million-plus advertiser because of disappointing third-quarter sales.

Client representative Michael Tierney said in a statement, “We’re a world-class brand. BBDO is a world-class agency. It’s both their responsibility and our expectation that they’ll continue to enhance our strategy to help us win customer mind share and bring us new customers.”

One source said former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, who has appeared in the campaign for a year, is “a question mark. He worked for a while. This time last year, that was a successful campaign.”

Executives of the New York shop said the meetings, held in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, were routine, but sources said BBDO “has been working furiously on new work” for the past month.

KFC’s third-quarter, same-store sales were flat, with September results dropping 10 percent. Client executives attributed the falloff to increased chicken offerings from pizza chains such as Domino’s and Papa John’s.

Ted Sann, chief creative officer of BBDO New York and North America, and BBDO New York CEO Bill Katz attended last week’s meetings. One source said about Sann’s participation that “it’s unusual for Ted to step in unless something is up.”

Al Merrin, executive creative director, oversees creative for KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands.

An agency representative disputed that Sann’s presence in Louisville was “unusual,” saying he is involved in every account.

Another executive said, “The retail business is pretty intense You have to figure out how to respond, and that’s what we’re doing.” It could not be determined whether BBDO was able to sell the new ideas to the client.

BBDO won the account in December 2000 from Young & Rubicam without a review. Its campaign is tagged, “There’s fast food. Then there’s KFC.”