CHURCHS GIRDS FOR BATTLE WITH KFC IN SANDWICHES

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The country's top two chicken chains are gearing up for a battle-over sandwiches.

Churchs Chicken plans to bring back a short-lived menu item just weeks before larger rival KFC debuts a much-anticipated sandwich line. The AFC Enterprises division will launch a boneless chicken breast sandwich to take advantage of an expected heavy ad blitz from KFC Corp.

"Overall media attention to a specific type of product can stimulate demand for everyone," said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Churchs.

He declined to provide details about the sandwich, and said the company has no plans to make it a permanent menu addition.

KFC's long-anticipated, five-item sandwich line is being eyed as more than a limited-time offer. The chain, a unit of Tricon Global Restaurants, seeks to boost lunch business and grab chicken sandwich sales from burger chains.

Y&R Advertising, New York, is handling. KFC spent $161 million last year on advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

LAST FROM SHOP; FREEMAN NAMED

Churchs' product will be supported with TV and radio ads in spot markets.-the last creative from Austin Kelley Advertising, Atlanta.

Following a two-month review, Churchs last week tapped Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, to handle creative duties, and Carat North America, New York, to handle media planning and buying for its $15 million account.

Austin Kelley had handled the entire account for the past 19 months and was a finalist in the review. Other creative finalists were Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, and Merkley Newman Harty, also New York, in partnership with Bayless Cronin, Atlanta. Western Initiative Media Worldwide, Atlanta, also pitched for the media business.

The review, handled in-house, was initiated by Mr. Haley, who joined Churchs last spring from Foodmaker, parent of the Jack in the Box burger chain. He said Freeman's winning pitch likely will be used in its first work for Churchs.

"Their creative was really exceptional, coupled with the fact they've had a great track record," he said. The shop, well-known for its humorous fast-food work for Little Caesars pizza, proved it would "create appetite appeal for the product."

The new agency comes as AFC, also parent to Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Cinnabon International and Seattle Coffee Co., positions itself for an expected initial public offering of stock in the next year.

"It sounds like they are definitely dressing up" for the IPO, said Mitchell

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