Peter Arnell: Pepsi Logo is "Bullshit"; Tropicana Is "Not My Brand ... So What the Hell?"

Last Updated Mar 31, 2009 3:50 PM EDT

Is Peter Arnell deliberately trying to antagonize PepsiCo? He allowed Newsweek to follow him around for a few days and in the resulting article he calls the new Pepsi logo he designed "bullshit" and says of the Tropicana redesign fiasco, "it's not my brand. It's not my company. So what the hell? I got paid a lot of money, and I have 30 other projects. You move on."

He also curses, name-drops, smokes, stuffs himself with oranges, and generally comes off as compulsive and unstable. It is also revealed that he worked his initials -- P.E.A. -- into the brand name of GM's Peapod line of expensive golf carts (surely an imminent victim of bailout cuts?).

The piece is this week's must-read ad story. Bravo to Daniel Lyons for executing it.

Here's a digest that doesn't even scratch the surface of the highlights:
On the Tropicana package that the client quickly rejected after it turned out that customers hated it: "That guy loves it. Why can't he have a freaking blog, right?" Actually, the word Arnell uses is not "freaking," and he's using it a lot.

"The Bernie Madoff of brands."

... some rivals dismiss Arnell as a pompous, pretentious, phony intellectual--a fraud, basically. That criticism seemed on target...

He owns 1,600 pairs of eyeglasses, all fitted with his prescription.

... this nearly perfect life is being marred by that freaking juice box. Arnell claims it doesn't bother him. But when you spend some time around him, you quickly realize that (a) he's extremely insecure, (b) he knows this mess has damaged him and (c) he wants to move past this as quickly as possible.

When he is approached on the street by a man who says he loves the new Tropicana package: Arnell swears this is not a setup. But who knows what's real and what's stagecraft?

Having done advertising work for the New York Fire Department, he's managed to get a fire-department badge and radio, and has outfitted his Jeep Commander with flashing lights.

Two former business associates, who requested anonymity to avoid damaging their relationship with Arnell, say Arnell carried a handgun in an ankle holster.

Arnell devours oranges, about 20 a day, which turn his hands yellow.

Arnell puts the call on speakerphone. In case I don't recognize the voice, he stage-whispers to me, "It's Jay Leno." Afterward, he calls Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, and Rudy Giuliani, but can't get them on the phone.

... you could fill a book with horror stories about his cruel behavior--screaming at people, even hitting them...

A woman who worked for Arnell years later says he still delighted in bringing assistants to tears.

"I can't believe that for the rest of my life I'm going to be known as Peter 'Tropicana' Arnell."

On Tropicana: ...it's not my brand. It's not my company. So what the hell? I got paid a lot of money, and I have 30 other projects. You move on."

On Pepsi: "It's all bullsâ€"â€"t," he said. "A logo on a can of soda? Please. My life is bullsâ€"â€"t."

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