Peter Arnell Reinvents Himself

Peter Arnell, advertising guru extraordinaire, has written a self-help book called “Shift” about how he lost 256 pounds.

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Arnell’s campaign for Donna Karan.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Arnell’s campaign for Samsung.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Talk about reinvention.

The advertising guru known for creative branding solutions for such companies as Donna Karan, DKNY, Emanuel Emanuel Ungaro, Concord Watches, Samsung and Con Edison, has turned his focus on rebranding himself.

Peter Arnell, chairman and chief creative officer of Arnell, has written a self-help book called “Shift” (Broadway Books, 2010), which details how he shed 256 pounds by eating only oranges, fruits, vegetables and grilled fish. By applying some of the business strategies and tactics he used on his numerous clients, he created what he likes to call the “new and improved version of Peter Arnell.”

With a penchant for living life to the extreme, Arnell has transformed his life by drastically changing his eating habits. He admits he had no surgery and credits a lot to oranges, which kept him on track. In the book, he writes, “I’m constantly peeling oranges. But truth be told, the oranges peeled me as well. That’s what they’ve done for a long time. They peeled away layers within me. They convinced me that I could change. That I didn’t have to remain the way I was — a 400-plus-pound man in what should have been a 150-pound body.”

Arnell writes that he used to be physically imposing — “That’s a diplomatic way to say I was obese” — and that obesity is what people noticed first when they met him. “I’ve always loved food. I used to devour good food the way I devour life, savoring every new sensation (or new thought) that comes to me over the course of the day. I still do that in my life, but not with food anymore.”

Arnell’s branding advice, and thought processes behind many of his innovative ad campaigns, are woven throughout the 200-page book. “Branding is about simplicity and scale. Most people don’t relate to small; they relate to big. So as a marketer, it pays to think really big and to move fast. You have to approach marketing like Formula 1 racing; respond quickly, think ahead, and know where you are going,” he writes. The newly nimble Arnell sat down with WWD at Sant Ambroeus last week over grilled vegetables, and discussed the book, his most memorable campaigns and his new outlook on life.

WWD: Why did you decide to write the book?
Peter Arnell:
People were hocking me. They said, “You’ve got to tell the world about the weight loss.” I’m down to 143 pounds. It [the weight loss] took 30 months, and it’s been six years and I’ve never gone back. Unfortunately, people engage with their eyes. They don’t engage with their minds. People don’t get to know who you are. I had spent my whole life with people saying to themselves, “How can such a smart guy allow himself to be so heavy and unhealthy?”

WWD: How has your new trim physique affected the way you work?
The offices do reflect the structured quality. I was always neat and orderly. The office is as fit as I am. There’s a lot of process and regiment.

WWD: How did your family adjust to your weight loss?
There’s a big pressure off the family when the pressure of Pop having a stroke is out of the picture. But the places you go with them and the time you spend with them is always surrounded by food. “Let’s call in Chinese food,” or “Dad’s home for dinner.” None of these work in the same way. You have to adjust. I think I had an influence on them. Fish gets exchanged for meat, and water for soda pop.

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