WHEN Kentucky Fried Chicken marked its 10th anniversary in Hong Kong this year it celebrated by commissioning customised phonecards. And these were not standard-issue Hongkong Telecom phonecards. KFC teamed up with Coca-Cola and packaged two phonecards in a limited edition 'anniversary pack' that also contained a nostalgic calendar and three cash vouchers worth $25 each, redeemable for a meal and a drink. These cards will never see a payphone. They have become collectors' items and, in a few years' time, if kept in mint condition, their value will increase. The vouchers are likely to be kept as well, as the whole package will become even more valuable. What KFC and Coca-Cola embarked on is one of the hottest advertising and image-building tools on the market - the customised phonecard. Companies promote their names on them, with namecard details included if they wish. Pop stars advertise concerts, while a new compact disc can be promoted with a photograph of the singer. Delegates attending a conference in Hong Kong can be presented with a phonecard they can use during their stay. Such a card could carry the conference logo. The Asian Development Bank was one organisation that saw the potential of a special phonecard and issued one to mark its 25th annual meeting. Celebrating an anniversary? Then why not issue a phonecard? Even the Hong Kong Government is in on the act. The Urban Council and RTHK recently commissioned a phonecard pack, complete with a 24-page booklet, to celebrate a Centenary of Cinema in the territory (the most popular has been one featuring a teenage Bruce Lee in the 1960 film, The Orphan.) 'More and more companies are turning to phonecards as advertising and promotional vehicles,' said Hongkong Telecom marketing general manager Ernest Lee. 'They have proven attractive and useful items that help companies keep their images fresh in the minds of customers.' For one thing, people tend to hang on to a free phonecard. They may come in handy one day, unlike a namecard. For another, the phonecard with your name on it may even become famous, which explains why phonecards are a must now in the local entertainment business. Jacky, Leslie and other Canto-pop kings commission phonecards for concerts, films, tours and just about everything in between. 'Teenagers queue up to buy them,' Mr Lee said. With such demand, the music companies have even discovered they can turn a tidy profit, since packages sell at a substantial premium to the cost of the phonecard and printing. Even small restaurants can issue their own cards. After all, a small order costs about $100,000. A mega-package, meanwhile, could cost millions of dollars. 'You can spend as much or as little as you like,' Mr Lee said. 'It's a new media and any company can make use of it.' Kodak is giving phonecards away with purchases this Christmas, using these as a promotional tool and also a sales gimmick. Collectors look for all types of phonecards, either for their value as an investment, or a hobby. The growing band of collectors means big revenue for issuers. Hongkong Telecom has, almost by accident, stumbled on to a profitable enterprise. And business is booming. 'It's growing fast,' Mr Lee said, although Hongkong Telecom is reluctant to divulge commercial details. The company has enjoyed leadership in phonecards as it has on telephone services. In the wake of the industry's deregulation, rival telecom operators are sure to cash in on this craze. Issuing phonecards could be as good as obtaining a licence to print money for a business.