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Gisonde BLUE-CHIP TURNAROUND FOR D.C.'S ARNOLD SHOP

By Published on .

Peter Hanley promised a turnaround last November when he took the helm of Arnold Advertising, a shop with a new president, a new parent and some big problems. So far, he's proving to be a man of his word.

The McLean, Va., agency expects to end 1994 with $39 million in billings, more than double the $19 million it had a year ago. Staff has risen to 60, from 35 at the start of the year.

The suburban Washington office of DDB Needham Worldwide was on a steady downward spiral when Boston-based Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot purchased it in July 1993. The shop was reeling from the loss of several key clients, including the $10 million Greater Washington D.C. (McDonald's) Advertising Association.

Now, the renamed Arnold Advertising is rebuilding through a focus on local blue-chip accounts and eschewing the more traditional smaller-agency quarry of local retailers, Mr. Hanley said.

"We have 40 Fortune 500 corporations in this area, many of which go to New York, where they get the C-team because these accounts often are small-$15 million or less," Mr. Hanley said. "New York is only interested in $80 million accounts with Super Bowl ads. Corporations [in the Washington area] are not getting the advertising and marketing support they deserve."

Arnold Advertising is doing project work for several local Bell Atlantic Corp. divisions and defense contractor Martin Marietta Corp. It has won agency of record assignments from Sterling Software; Precision Tune; and Capital Baseball, which wants to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Washington.

The agency has also won back the confidence of several former clients, including National Geographic Traveler and the local McDonald's co-op. The local McDonald's account returned after Arnold Fortuna and New York-based DDB Needham, two major agencies for the chain, formed an alliance to service the McDonald's business previously held by Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, which had to give the account up due to a conflict with Burger King Corp. (AA, Aug. 8).

Mr. Hanley, former exec VP at Young & Rubicam in New York and general manager of J. Walter Thompson USA's Washington office from 1981 to 1983, is courting new clients based on major-account experience of his staff. For example, Mr. Hanley said he is "definitely going to use [the staff's] talent to go after more telecommunications business."

Arnold Advertising's president has previously worked on Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Northern Telecom, IBM Corp. and McCaw Cellular business. Dennis Mollura, the agency's public relations director, is a Bell Atlantic veteran.

To attract local blue-chip accounts, Arnold Advertising is bringing in people with major agency and account experience. Its latest heavyweight hire is Nick Gisonde for the new post of exec VP-executive creative director. Mr. Gisonde comes to Arnold from exec VP-senior creative director at Y&R, New York. His big claim to fame is Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Lite "Tastes great. Less filling" campaign while VP-creative director at Backer Spielvogel Bates. He's also a veteran of JWT in New York. Other account experience includes AT&T, Eastman Kodak Co., Hyundai Motor America, M&M/Mars and Xerox Corp.

Mr. Gisonde worked with Mr. Hanley at Y&R and JWT.

"I always felt there was a big opportunity here" in the Washington area, Mr. Hanley said. "But you can't do it without talent ... people who have had their feet to the fire on accounts like General Mills, Coke and Pepsi, not local car dealerships."

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