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Peter Arnell Is Back -- and Creating Campaigns for GNC

Polarizing Adman Strikes Out on His Own, Does Work for Former Agency Client

By Published on . 2

It's been awhile since we've heard from the outspoken agency executive who once worked for the likes of Chrysler, PepsiCo and Home Depot, but Peter Arnell's back.

GNC's latest campaign, 'Respect Yourself'
GNC's latest campaign, 'Respect Yourself'

The lawsuit between Mr. Arnell and Omnicom Group over the ad and design guru's expansive library was settled a year ago. And it's been four years since Mr. Arnell was mocked for his laborious update of Pepsi's logo and the ill-fated redesign of Tropicana.

Still, some marketers --and celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Donna Karan -- have always gravitated toward Mr. Arnell's philosophies about brand strategy and brand transformation. So he's again working in adland, albeit this time it appears he's on his own. For GNC's latest campaign, "Respect Yourself," Peter Arnell is credited with directing and photographing the campaign video, print and communications. He is also credited with leading all marketing and communications along with the GNC team.

GNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its relationship with Mr. Arnell.

What's especially interesting about his new client is that Arnell Group, his former agency which was purchased by Omnicom a dozen years ago, broke up with GNC not that long ago. The work had taken a wrong turn such that the shop, which is now run by Mr. Arnell's wife Sara, wasn't invited to defend the account when it went into review in fall 2011. It was a clear sign the health-and-wellness brand was serious about going in a new direction with its marketing. Campaigns by the Arnell agency had included stark black-and-white outdoor and print ads that carried mantras such as "Live Raw" and "Live Radiantly."

The brandshifted its account to McKinney, which beat out Doner and 22Squared in late 2011. And a few months later it awarded Edelman its PR business following a competitive review. Both agency shifts were led by Jeff Hennion, who left his role as chief marketer in October. In the interim, GNC quietly parted ways with McKinney after working together for less than a year and producing just a few marketing assignments. Edelman is also no longer working with the retailer.

But Mr. Arnell is clearly back in GNC's good graces. In a statement, Joe Fortunato, chairman-CEO of GNC, said, "Working with Peter, our new 'Respect Yourself' campaign is a concrete demonstration and integral component of GNC's mission in helping consumers live their best lives."

The campaign appears to be in line with work Mr. Arnell has done for the brand in the past, with crisp black-and-white images and simple direct messages such as, "Be Vibrant" and "Be Beautiful." The campaign will run on network and cable broadcast, outdoor print and digital. A competition encouraging consumers to send in success stories styled as "Me on GNC" is also being launched.

TV ads, for the most part, feature chiseled men and women exercising, dancing and stretching. In one ad, Edith, a great-grandmother, wags her finger at the camera admonishing America to "be healthy."In another ad, a young girl look mournfully at the camera and says, "Grandpa, I really miss you a lot. I wish you took care of yourself."

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