Starting From Scratch

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

BaylessCronin here has been invited to pitch, as has Publicis in Mid America’s Dallas office and Levenson & Hill, also in Dallas.

Earlier this summer, BaylessCronin was tapped to “tweak” existing ads from incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners with special-offer inserts [Adweek, June 12], said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer at the Atlanta-based client.

Haley said New York-based Cliff Freeman would not defend the business. Agency executives could not be reached for comment.

The shop won the creative assignment from hometown incumbent Austin Kelley Advertising in August 1999, following a review in which BaylessCronin participated.

Haley praised Cliff Freeman’s television spots, citing the work’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.

One ad stars a grandmother who repeatedly burns down her home while trying to prepare chicken. Another spot features a naked man wandering the streets.

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

One source said disgruntled Church’s franchisees are driving the review. Publicis handled the account in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Levenson then took over until Austin Kelley won the business in 1997.