GNC Picks McKinney to Handle Creative

Independent Shop Replaces Omnicom Group's Arnell

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Health-focused retailer GNC has chosen Durham, N.C.-based McKinney to serve as its new creative agency after a pitch this fall, Ad Age has learned.

The search process, which was conducted with the help of Consigliere Brand Capital, began with 11 shops. That group was then cut to five independent shops, and then further narrowed to three. In the last round, a trio of independent shops faced off for the business. They were Doner, 22Squared and McKinney. Consigliere and GNC declined to comment while the agencies referred calls to the client.

Arnell Group was not extended an invite to participate in the pitch -- a clear sign that GNC is serious about going in an entirely new direction with its marketing. Recent executions by Arnell included stark black-and-white outdoor and print ads that carried mantras such as "Live Raw" and "Live Radiantly."

Cramer-Krasselt -- which was invited to pitch but did not prevail -- is the incumbent shop for GNC's offline media-buying duties, while True Action is GNC's digital-media agency. Those assignments were not impacted by the creative pitch. GNC's overall ad budget is estimated at between $50 million and $60 million.

At McKinney, GNC joins a roster that includes Coldwell Banker, Gold's Gym, Nationwide Insurance and Sherwin-Williams.

The conclusion of this pitch comes as GNC has just begun a search for a public-relations agency. The changes are being driven by GNC Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer and Head of e-Commerce Jeff Hennion, who joined the company at the start of 2011 after leading marketing for Dick's Sporting Goods. Coincidentally, Dick's is also now conducting an agency search.

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