Ad agency shutting down

National consolidation of big KFC accounts leads to dissolution of firm with annual billings of $40M

A large Brentwood advertising agency built on the back of a steadily growing clutch of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisees will close its doors this week after KFC parent Yum Brands shuffled all of its advertising spending to a national firm.

While J&A Advertising is liquidating its core business activities and will release all but a handful of its staff at day’s end Thursday, President Steve Barry (pictured) said the firm’s accounts will be fully and properly closed out in the coming weeks, ending a months-long winding down.

“Nobody will be left in the lurch,” said Barry, whose team billed about $40 million in 2011, when it also picked up several new clients. “A lot of clients knew this was coming and were not caught off guard.”

The cause of J&A’s demise was the decision by Louisville-based Yum Brands, the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, to move all of its advertising spending to a national agency. Until recently, Yum had worked with KFC franchisee groups to split marketing spending between national and 10 regional agencies. By last year, J&A was handling the advertising for KFC franchisees in about 55 markets around the country and the restaurant chain was by far its largest client.

Other J&A customers include the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, as well as convenience store chain Circle K, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and Cool Springs money management firm CapWealth Advisors.

Just where and with whom many of those clients and others will land is still being settled. Vice President and Group Director Joe Harkins early this week sent a letter to media partners saying he will now handle the media planning and placement for First Farmers & Merchants Bank.