Arnold Advertising Is More Than Making It in McLean, Va.

By Nora FitzGerald

ATLANTA–When Arnold Advertising acquired the DDB Needham office in McLean, Va., in 1993, no one in the market took much notice. Many assumed the new outpost would be another sleepy service office with a parent–Boston-based Arnold Communications–spoonfeeding collateral and promotional business from big accounts.

Surprisingly, the office has increased its billings from $17 million to $131 million in four years, and only $12 million of that increase is from parent clients like Volkswagen and McDonald’s, according to Pete Hanley, president of Arnold in McLean. What was at first a 34-person shop now boasts 131 employees, and Hanley said he immediately needs to hire eight to 10 more.

Arnold recently gained Point of Care Technologies, a medical testing firm in Herndon, Va. The budget for the client, which focuses on developing home-testing kits, is undisclosed. PCT arrives on the heels of another win: PSINet, an Internet service provider that will spend $2-4 million on advertising in the next year.

Arnold’s success belies the fact that Washington, D.C., has not been known as a great agency town. In fact, Arnold has made a conscious decision to stay in Virginia, picking up local, burgeoning corporate accounts too small for most New York agencies.

‘No big agency has been able to make it here,’ said Hanley. ‘J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, DDB Needham, they’ve all come and gone. Others have strictly service offices. We’re here because we court all the $5-10 million Virginia accounts that New York agencies sniff at.’

Local clients include Mitretek Systems, American Red Cross, Sterling Software and the National Geographic Society. Hanley also pursues accounts across the country, but he does not enter into competitive pitches. ‘We lost U.S. Cellular and others because we just wouldn’t participate in that kind of review process,’ he said.

Arnold’s clients include high-tech firms like Wayne, Pa.-based SAP, a $30 million account. It was less than a year ago that the shop won that business after a period of intense pursuit that SAP advertising manager Lisa Baldwin called ‘unprecedented.’

Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1997) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED