O&M faces challenge to £15m KFC account

Ogilvy & Mather is on red alert after news that its Kentucky Fried Chicken client is talking to agencies about its £15 million UK account.

A number of undisclosed agencies have been contacted for the review, which is being handled through the AAR. The incumbent will be repitching for the business. Media, which is held by Zenith Media, is not affected by the creative review.

The review comes as KFC gears up for the next phase in its expansion programme in the UK.

O&M has handled the UK account since 1996. While the agency's initial work for the brand had largely consisted of adapting the US creative for the UK market, a decision was taken by KFC UK in January this year to change the direction of the advertising away from concentrating on the animated Colonel Saunders character, in a bid to create a more modern identity and improve sales.

The subsequent live action ads from O&M, scripted in the UK, temporarily ditched the character of Colonel Saunders in favour of a campaign featuring a voiceover from Samuel L Jackson and a new strapline: "Give in to the chicken."

The work is said to have underperformed and this, in combination with the recent flux of management changes at O&M, has led the franchisees to call a review.

KFC is jointly owned by local franchisees and the US company Yum! Restaurants International.

It has 600 outlets across the UK and plans to open a further 165 restaurants by 2005.

Ogilvy's most recent work for KFC has been for its Tikka Pockets. The television ads broke two weeks ago and used images of Indian shadow puppetry to position the brand as a modern alternative to sandwiches.

In May the company signed a deal to promote the film Spider-Man in its outlets.

The KFC pitch will be a crucial one for O&M, which has lost £40 million in billings since January from account losses which include Argos, COI Communications, The Samaritans, Clear Blue, Royal & Sun Alliance and Ragu.

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