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Boston Chicken last week handed its $35 million account to J. Walter Thompson USA, putting the New York agency on the hot seat to craft an overdue branding campaign for the new Boston Market stores.

Planning to convert 80% of its roughly 600 stores to the Boston Market name by July, the Golden, Colo.-based marketer conducted its review with a sense of urgency, said one executive who participated.

Despite renaming its stores, the company continues to call itself Boston Chicken, raising the question of whether consumers will easily accept the new brand name. Boston Chicken decided to add a variety of new entrees last year, when store sales began to slow in some markets.

The Boston Chicken account grew to $35 million from $5 million in its two years at Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, Chicago. That figure may double in the next few years as the marketer rushes ahead with rapid domestic and possibly international expansion.

Toward the end of Boston Chicken's relationship with Bayer Bess, the marketer began entertaining work from other agencies, including the Leap Partnership, Chicago, and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis. Boston Chicken will continue to use a variety of media buying shops for local media, including JWT and Western International Media, Los Angeles.

Early this year, Bayer Bess recruited Western to work on the Boston Chicken account when it became clear the client wanted a stronger network of regional media buying offices.

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