Advertising CEO Meltdown

It seems everyone is enjoying how Peter Arnell was tasked with rebranding Tropicana Orange Juice and came up with packaging that consumers hated so Tropicana killed it after potentially spending 35 million dollars on the effort (here). This is only the latest in what will surely be many public beatings for companies that spend money on stuff that doesn’t work and the snake oil salesmen who convince them to do so.

I’m a little conflicted about the whole deal because it signals a return to zero risk at a time when most companies need heaping dumpster loads of risk to discover new ways of doing things. On the other hand you can’t buy this level of brand awareness with 35 million dollars so maybe the effort really did pay off in the end for a company willing to take a huge risk and attempt a makeover but then when the people tell you they don’t like it one bit scrap the whole deal. That’s pretty effing risky.

The most painful part of the whole ordeal is this leaked video where you can watch the jazz hands routine of Mr. Arnell hisself as he blows an enormous column of smoke up the Tropicana/Pepsi executives asses while explaining how they arrived at the packaging. Some of you know that convincing people why one thing is better than another takes more than just saying it and you really need a little bit of smoke and mirrors to get the job done but this one seems to be all smoke and mirrors.

Here’s a couple choice quotes:

“Historically we always showed the outside of the orange. What was fascinating was that we had never shown the product called the juice.”

“We engineered this interesting little squeeze cap here (which you guys can come up and see after) so that the notion of squeezing the orange was implied ergonomically every day when you actually went to the actual carton. The skin of the orange is replicated on the cap, and tooled in to the cap. The idea, of course, is to have a consistency between the purity of the juice (which is coming directly from the orange), the cap (which you squeeze every day), and, of course, the carton.”

And the video:

It appears that Peter Arnell is the king of advertising hyperbole. Here’s more.

There Are 45 Comments On This Article.

    • I read about the Obama link but the new pepsi logo never fails to remind me of Carnival Cruise line.

      It is so similar that i wonder how it didnt cross the company’s mind.

  1. Watching that video makes it clear that Peter Arnell was not sold on the redesign. He’s not exactly enthusiastic about what he’s preaching.

  2. Yep, the new carton design sucked. I saw it a couple weeks ago and thought about how much I just wasn’t feeling it. Glad they changed it back. Not that I’m really happy, I would have dealt with it had they left it, but it just didn’t say “refreshing OJ” to me.

  3. And they really need to get rid of the new Gatorade branding. G? What the hell is that? Come on, your products aren’t slang, give me a break. Why not P for Pepsi then, T for Tropicana. Who are they marketing all this crap to, tweens?

  4. “The power of of of of of of…love…”

    What a d-bag. As soon as I saw the Tropicana packaging, I thought the same head-up-the-ass group probably did the new Pepsi logo, too.

    Arnell is the stereotypical designer that gives the design(and advertising) industry such a bad name. And for good reason. As a former big agency Art Director, I can tell you that there’s at least one Arnell in every Creative Department. But, in my experience, the rest of us would call bullshit on enough of their, well, bullshit to keep them in check, but their work was dangerous because if and when it slipped past us to the meeting, it was usually client-friendly (which usually means audience-unfriendly).

    A tongue-in-cheek (one of many) descriptor we’d use for a successful career in the business is the “ability to justify anything.” It’s just part of the business, really. And it’s great sport to watch Arnell try to ply that seedy skill of the trade to this little speech, here.

    Better work would reach the market if more Facebooking and Tweeting would replace traditional focus groups and mall intercepts as research: better results and faster response time. But, just like Rob continues to challenge, that would require breaking down the internal industry to do so.

    This whole thing should make Arnell squeek more when he walks than he already probably does and I’d like to see him get out of the way so better work can prevail. The public is finally able to demand it!

  5. The Tropicana design looks like some Generic brand.. imho..

    I can’t help but see the aloof NBC TV exec on Seinfeld which George convinced the show pilot was “About Nothing”

  6. I thought this was a clip from a new Christopher Guest movie…Bob Ballaban playing the clueless self important ad wizard.

  7. I think this is a fine example of over thinking a solution to a non-existent problem.

    I simply want the juice to get from the tree, to my stomach, deliciously. How hard is that?


  8. Integrity and leadership is a quality that (from my viewpoint) seems to be lacking in many areas.

    Arnell was tasked with the rebranding. I don’t think he went to the drawing board, created the new packaging, wiped his brow and then shipped it off to People along the way signed off on the work that was done. To point the finger at him after the fact is troubling. Where is the integrity?

    People don’t always like new things. Was sales down BECAUSE of the new packaging? Or were people just complaining to make themselves feel better during troubled times?

    For some reason I’m missing the “horrible” part of this packaging issue (maybe I just have bigger fish to fry). I think that for myself, and my photography, I stand up every day and say, “This is what I’m going to do.” And then I go do it. Those who like what I’m doing can get on board and come along. I don’t wait for focus groups to give me feedback, and I certainly don’t try to pour myself into a mold so that I end up looking like someone else. I determine my course and I stick with it. The line from the old song goes: You can’t please everyone, so ya gotta please yourself. I may not be leading an army, but I am leading. We all need to stand for something.

    When I worked in news, I felt that the newspapers were trying to be like TV. The stories on most days seemed just like a print version of the nightly news. When the Internet came along, the newspaper could finally offer video. I don’t see the leadership in moves such as this.

    Whether you like Peter Arnell and his new packaging or not, he made a bold move. He made a command decision and dared to be different.

    There will always be people complaining. We can’t be like a kite and fly whichever way the wind blows. Regardless of the quality of design, in the end, it would have still ended up in a landfill. Arnell dared to fail. He should be applauded.

    • @Tony Blei,
      I think you’re missing the “horrible” part of this packaging issue because you haven’t chosen package design as a career path. Which is OK – but Arnell has and he’s got his name on the door and he’s got to take the beating when there’s a beating due.

      Arnell IS very much in the business of pleasing everyone, actually. If you’re choosing to take the money to redesign something as iconic and general-market as the Tropicana container or the Pepsi logo, you’ve got a responsibility to the high expectations that come with that. Which means focus groups, decision-by-committee, meeting client expectations and weathering those creative storms in a way that gets a great solution to market.

      Arnell didn’t do that, resulting in that pitiful video…

      • @STONER,

        The even bigger point – he dared to fail with his client’s money. It never ceases to amaze me how big agencies are able to get away with such b—s—. There is so much great design out there, maybe Tropicana should have looked around at smaller groups who really know how to create great designs that appeal to consumers – just a thought.

  9. I remember watching a copywriter amble around a conference room, trumpeting like an elephant during a creative pitch for a local zoo. Swinging “arm trunk” and all.

    Sometimes I miss being agency-side.

    But mostly don’t.

  10. My favorite part was where he went so far as to try to equate squeezing the new cap to a hug to love. I wasn’t really sold on it before that, but then I realized he was just trying way too hard because he didnt actually believe any of the schlock he was slinging.

  11. I wonder if this isn’t a case of shooting the messenger? Companies don’t typically spend a ton of money to redesign the packaging of products that are selling well and gaining market share (okay, some do but those are companies with morons in charge). Usually there is some precipitating drop-off in revenue that company executives conclude can be overcome with a quick/dirty packaging redesign rather than a longer, more expensive, refresh of the actual product.

    While you could debate whether the new design is better/worse than the old design I’m going to guess competitive pressure, and general economic conditions are probably more to blame. The company tried a quick fix, it didn’t work, so they blame the ad agency for the fiasco.

  12. jean-marie

    That presentation does a disservice to the design industry as a whole. Arnell comes off as a huckster who understands the concept of brand at a very superficial level. Watching it makes me cringe, though I think it’s right and good that a firm that justifies it’s design work and design thinking with a presentation like that *should* receive all of the negative press it is now receiving.

  13. I think the job they did with Pepsi is even worse….my God it’s all about the name in this business.

  14. HEY AD GENIUSES!: It’s not the 80’s anymore. No one cares about little round things with textures like other things. Remember the air pump high tops with buttons that had textures like a basketball? You know what people are interested in? THEIR OWN SELVES.
    Seen lately? It links you back to your own twitter/facebook.

    I say they should have made the boxes with mirrors all over them so people can see their own face everytime they grab a carton. Now that’s what I want in my fridge.

  15. Wow! Now I can buy orange juice again at Target! I really thought they replaced my favorite tasting Tropicano with generic, but after seeing this I realized they F’ed up the packaging. Oh happy day! (except for Peter Arnell)

  16. The new packaging was on the shelf for 3 weeks before I realized it was Tropicana and not a generic brand. Arnell is full of more sh*t than a Christmas turkey.

  17. You have NO IDEA how much packaging redesign is a bunch of BUNK!!! I worked on so many redesigns at my former employer to know that there is always some sort of BS going on during every turn. Somebody always has this “Groundbreaking Packaging Idea” that’s gonna turn the next brand into that Billion dollar brand. You make those brands with winning products, not packages dummies!

    I don’t care how many focus groups they did, there is no way this new package won over consumers…unless you did the focus group with Ikea and Target employees.

    It’s soo funny. There is so much money to built into budgets for package redesigns that companies continue to spend it as if they HAVE to do what they’ve done every 4-5 years prior….”Well we really need to spend this money on a new package redesign because it’s time. Irregardless of whether it’s necessarily the right thing to do in the marketplace.

    Be interesting if Co’s cut back the crap spending to help save themselves instead of looking for government handouts, bailouts etc….

    Enough of my rant on Corporate America for today.


  18. Look, people: package design is a necessary and honorable industry in a capitalist society – that’s a fact proven over the last 100+ years in this country alone. Think the L’Eggs egg and the Aunt Jemima syrup packages as just two great examples.

    But the point here is that Peter Arnell represents what goes horribly wrong in this industry on a scale and playing field not really seen before with such immediacy. And APE is making the point that the new social media has EVERYTHING to do with that – and we’re active participants in it with this very thread.

    The fact that Arnell looks such an asshole is because he really is one: it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen such a ripe bunch of bullshit berries being squeezed into one carafe and passed around as a valuable vintage. Jeezus, did I just say that?

  19. REAL moral of the story. Get Arnell’s group to redesign your logos and packaging. You’ll have to live with the results, but who cares when you’re getting so much publicity for your product. When the S-storm is over, go back to your old look.

  20. Tropicana couldn’t have bought this much blog and word of mouth coverage if they tried. I haven’t thought about Tropicana in a long time (don’t really buy “juice products”), but now I’ve told a few friends about the debacle, always mentioning Tropicana in the process. I’m not convinced these guys are clever enough to pull it off, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this turn out to be a viral marketing stunt.

    • @M. Scott Brauer, agreed. if your campaign flops, make sure it flops hard enough to get tons of press and go viral.

  21. A few things I see going on here:

    1) Arnell is being made a scapegoat for bad sales. The packaging is bad IMO but it’s only part of the problem and while I’m not fan of Arnell, there were countless Pepsi execs who signed off on it and bought into all his BS. The Pepsi document is truly a bunch of pseudo-intellectual-DaVinci-code-BS. So, while he is indeed the source of the BS, there were many many people involved in the $35 million decision to go ahead with the redesign, not to mention other people who were involved in the marketing, distribution, placement and promotion who are also culpable for bad sales. PepsiCo is a big public company, so their stockholders want to see ACTION and want to see them make bold moves so they don’t take their dwindling 401K funds out of Pepsi stock.

    2) Arnell used an effective strategy for getting his stupid idea greenlighted. He used the psychology of the situation – a room full of paranoid execs, each one more scared than the next to put forth a strong opinion, so nobody calls him on his BS. If you pseudo-intellectualize anything enough, you can convince a room full of execs that it’s genius. Like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. If the Tropicana documentation was anything like the Pepsi rebranding, then I imagine the cap must be the very source of love and harmony in the universe.

    3) The outside of the orange usually looks better than the juice. OJ is generally lumpy with pulp and doesn’t pour well or have physical characteristics that are as visually interesting as, say Pepsi or Beer. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that it’s natural and most marketed drinks are not.

    4) The old packaging looks like crap. Just because Petey boy’s carton looks like the juice version of Surface Magazine (aka: bland, sans-serif, lacking in interest and flourish) doesn’t mean the old design was good either. The only thing it’s got going for it is the concept of an orange with a straw in it, but visually it’s cluttered and looks about as dynamic as the newest generation of $5 and $20 bills.

    • @dude,
      “He used the psychology of the situation – a room full of paranoid execs, each one more scared than the next to put forth a strong opinion, so nobody calls him on his BS.” Love this idea. Yeah, they call bullshit on Arnell after he’s not around.

      Brilliant analysis. Thanks.

    • @dude,
      I’m probably to close to this, but your points #1 and #2 are part of the reason why Arnell is no scapegoat. He’s an integral part of the problem in the Blue Chip design circus.

      Ever hear of the Celine Dion/Chrysler disaster? Millions spent on Arnell’s cunningly-presented shitty ideas, only to have the campaign scrapped due to a direct downturn in sales/support and money wasted. And it’s interesting to hear him use the same “ergonomic experience” bullshit to explain his Chrysler disaster and his Tropicana debacle.

      And his SoBe 3D Super Bowl spot that he claims is as monumental and important as Edison’s invention of the motion picture? Really? Can you even recall that commercial?

      Add the Gatorade “G” rebranding/advertising to this mess and you’ll begin to see a pattern here.

      I think the story here is that now, if the gatherings of the spineless don’t call bullshit on Arnell’s bullshit, the buying public will have no problem and an influential medium to take on that responsibility…

  22. I must add that I too had difficulty finding my Tropicana in the grocery store. It took me a while to see it with the new packaging, which I thought was an extremely ineffective redesign. I don’t know their sales figures, but otherwise why fix something that isn’t broken? Funny thing is that I purchased it just as I would have with the old packaging, so that seems like 35 Million dollars wasted to me.

    I don’t seem to recall the new textured cap. Maybe they could have saved 10 Million right there? ;)

  23. hm what strikes me is the bad typo, choice of font and graphics. Its totally “cold”. Prob was supposed to look modern but actually totally ignores the “sign of the times”. People dont want “cold” and “reduced” now at all. Not for food products anyway.

    Everything else is a non story to me. The 35 millions – there’s bigger figures. Its a lot for sure but I woudl guess still normal for a brand like that. The bullshitting to the executives – hey it’s the advertising industry. In a way he’s doing his job. The BS is always there on this level. Its kinda of sad but I wouldn’t mind it and the 35 Millions if the design was good and fresh and contemporary but it isn’t

  24. I just wonder if any blame will fall on the photographer who took the shot of the glass of o.j. I hope not for his or her sake.

  25. I have to be honest, as someone with 25+ years in the design industry I find the idea of the re-branding of a huge company like Tropicana to be a quite difficult challenge. I therefore both sympathize and understand the position Arnell was put in. I have to say I think he performed quite well given the circumstances, I only detected a very small amount of BS. I believe Arnell is a man who is quite passionate and knowledgeable about his craft, I find it somewhat flippant to call him a fake or phony. I believe there are very few designers on the planet who in his shoes could have done any better.

    The design world has been flooded with a load of mediocrity since every one with a computer and an Adobe package is now a “designer.” It makes it very difficult for those with talent (not hype!) to make a name for themselves. The field of photography has only experienced this phenomenon in the last decade or so, we in the design industry have been putting up with it for almost 20 years now.

    • @Paul M,
      I understand why you’re saying what you’re saying: you haven’t had the opportunity to step away from the design industry, take a breath, clear your head and look back in on the business with a fresh, open mind. That’s what I had to do in order to see things for what they really are and it was an enlightening process.

      When you’re immersed in your daily worklife, reaching your professional goals, dealing with your clients, internal politics, etc., you never get a chance leave your body to float up to the ceiling, look down on yourself and the business you’re in and really take survey of things.

      Once I did that, I can tell you that I was able to see the painfully obvious. In this case, I completely understand the challenges any shop would face with such a daunting assignment as this and the unusually large pile of bullshit Arnell spews clearly belies what HE’s actually good at. And it’s not great design, brother.

      Take a look at those hardbacks on your shelf near your monitor and drafting table – find the great design by guys like Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, Saul Bass…you get the idea – and just compare bodies of work to this self-described design genius. Please. These guys faced the same core challenges and changed the face of modern design with their creativity.

      Arnell is an embarrassment to the craft, Paul. Believe it.

  26. David Ekizian

    I am all for the visual evolution, and revolution of a brand’s identity. But where Arnell failed miserably with the Tropicana packaging was in clearly communicating the varied product offerings- (Lots of pulp, No pulp, Calcium no pulp, Low Sugar no pulp, Touch of pulp, Hint of pulp and kittens…) which was very clear through prominent color banding and typography on the top of the carton on the old packaging. When I first saw the new carton, I thought it was a generic placeholder of some sort- the washed out green of the new tropicana logo wasn’t helping. I literally had to search to find the “low sugar, no pulp” container that was so easily decipherable before. What stood before me at in the juice aisle was a sea of packages that all looked the same. The clear product offering descriptor device had been replaced by a thin color band tucked into the crease at the top of the container, and type that had to be searched for on the face of the carton. As a designer, I feel as though I have a pretty trained eye for these things, and can allow for a bit of a”getting used to it” phase with a brand’s redesign (I now think the BMW 5 Series is a really strong design)- but every time I went to buy juice, the process annoyed me more. I felt vindicated in my frustration when I overheard an older gentleman mumble to his wife “I can’t find my damn juice”. I became so annoyed that I switched in protest to Florida’s Natural brand. When I heard that Peter Arnell was behind the redesign- it all made sense to me. I could only imaging the millions he was paid for the job. Big “F-ing F” for failure, Mr. Arnell. Your arrogance and well earned reputation for this kind of crap has failed yet another client, the reputation of the ad and design industry, and most importantly- the consumer.

  27. Geez, I couldn’t sit through the entire video. Like others have said, it doesn’t seem that Arnell had even sold himself on the concept. And how does squeezing an artificial orange cap make me think of getting a hug or associating that with getting juice from a real orange and a straw poking out of a real orange didn’t? Crap, crap, crap. Besides, the new design made it look like generic juice.

    This guy would have been fired from the Apprentice before the first project ended.