Peter Arnell, Advertising's Anti-Midas, Writes a Book -- About Why He Eats 50 Oranges a Day

Last Updated May 14, 2010 3:49 PM EDT

Peter Arnell, the adman behind the Tropicana redesign disaster and the $1 million Pepsi logo document, has written a book about his obsession with oranges: he eats 50 a day and carries them with him in a basket at all times. The book, Shift, isn't due out until June, but someone left an excerpt hanging out on Scribd yesterday -- one suspects as a publicity ploy. Readers are urged to buy the thing on the last of its 14 pages.

Arnell became infamous in the ad business after Tropicana paid him $35 million to redesign its juice cartons -- and sales of the OJ brand collapsed amid a storm of protest from consumers who liked the old design better.

Arnell paints a deeply strange picture of himself, which isn't surprising because he's a deeply strange person. (Jeff Bercovici of DailyFinance recently wrote of him, "Never in the years before or since have I met a person so impressed with his own talents. That's not very nice to say, I know, but bear in mind we're talking about someone with a reputation for hitting his employees and making them do push-ups as punishment.")

Here's a few paragraphs from the excerpt, which is entirely about oranges and why they're a metaphor for Arnell's life:
... since I look fit and trim and healthy, people usually just wonder, ask nicely, or shrug it off. Fact is, my hands are orange- colored because for years I have been peeling and eating as many as fifty oranges a day.
In a business meeting, walking around, traveling, driving in the car, or watching TV, I always have oranges with me. I carry them in a small wicker basket or paper bag, which never fails to elicit the question "What's in there?" They get everyone talking and are a great way to open up a conversation. Oranges have become my symbol for change.
On long international flights, I bring as many as fifty oranges. Usually I can't eat all of them, so at the end, I offer some to the flight attendants, who seem to love them. When I show up to see my friend Frank Gehry, the architect, at his office in L.A., his staff announces me as "Orange Man."
I'm constantly peeling oranges. But truth be told, the oranges peeled me as well.
You'll note that aside from the oranges, the typical Arnell traits are writ large here: Copious name-dropping (Martha Stewart wrote the foreword) and showing off. Even though Arnell is supposed to be convincing you "transform your life" by "sticking to your vision," you learn mainly that Arnell has a totally awesome gig:
When I plan my travel to cities where I need to go, I think about the great places I have discovered where I can load up on the best oranges--Whole Foods in L.A., Sembikiya in Tokyo, Fauchon in Paris, Peck in Milan, Harrods Food Court in London, and Chelsea Market in New York.
And that he stays in the kind of hotel where the staff will do whatever you want, no matter how bizarre:
On the road in various far- off cities, while other travelers find themselves welcomed in their hotel rooms with bottles of wine or champagne or baskets full of crackers and chocolate-covered strawberries, I am welcomed by a big beautiful bowl of oranges.
Oddly, the excerpt doesn't mention Tropicana, an orange-based advertising client, which must have been heaven for Arnell until it all went horribly wrong.

And finally: This appears to be the book for which Harper Collins paid Arnell $550,000 -- and then had to sue the would-be author to get him to write it. Shift is published by Crown.

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