Fontainebleau Reportedly Removes Obstacle to Success, Peter Arnell

The marketing of Fontainebleau Las Vegas has been an unmitigated disaster, contributing to the resort’s losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

The blame would typically fall on casino marketing and advertising personnel at the resort, but in this case, it falls squarely on a guy named Peter Arnell, Chief Brand and Design Officer for Fontainebleau Development.

Industry chatter is Fontainebleau is parting ways with Arnell, paving the way for marketing (including social marketing) and advertising with an actual clue. We haven’t heard back yet from Fontainebleau about this rumor, but assuming it’s true, it’s the best news out of Fontainebleau since it opened, a glimmer of hope for the ailing Strip casino.

This could also be interpreted as “Fontainebleau is fire,” for the record.

We’ve been playfully poking at Fontainebleau’s marketing since before the resort opened.

Getting information about the $3.7 billion casino was like pulling teeth. The resort chose to go for a “big reveal,” a strategy that hasn’t been effective since 1974.

Once the casino opened, it was clear the hand guiding the brand and its marketing wasn’t local.

New York-based Peter Arnell was at one time a revered designer and branding executive. He has been involved with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Chrysler, Pepsi, Reebok, Donna Karan and others.

Arnell has been intimately involved with Fontainebleau Las Vegas due to his longtime relationship with Jeffrey Soffer, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fontainebleau Development. Here’s more about the partnership.

What most people don’t know is Peter Arnell is universally disliked inside Fontainebleau, and has been responsible for a lot of the friction leading to executive firings and resignations. There have been a lot.

The main reasons for the chaotic culture at Fontainebleau? Simply put, unrealistic expectations and meddling.

Recently, the toxic culture at Fontainebleau has been less toxic. Partially, because Maurice Wooden has taken over as president. Licensing approval to be determined, but Wooden is a hands-on leader and a people person with a solid track record in the industry. Additionally, because Arnell’s involvement has made a difficult task (operating a casino resort without hotel or casino databases) a virtually impossible one. As he’s stepped away, things have settled a bit.

Here’s cue card advocate Arnell (for some unknown reason) on a New Year’s Eve broadcast touting Fontainebleau. We actually know the reason: Ego. But just watch. Oh, and please ignore how quiet the crowd is when legendary Paul Anka asks if they remember “Diana.”

The sound you hear is the flushing of dollars, a common pattern at Fontainebleau, especially in the realm of marketing and advertising.

Fontainebleau has wasted millions of dollars on incomprehensible outdoor advertising, all with baffling flourishes that fail every exam in Advertising 101 exam. Behold, possibly the worst font since Comic Sans. Comic Sans would actually be more legible.

One of the more baffling aspects of Fontainebleau’s horrible marketing is the fact the resort had a world-class Chief Marketing Officer, Shane Smith. Smith resigned. Why? Because he was competent at his job, and he wasn’t allowed to do it. The reason: Peter Arnell.

Virtually everything associated with the marketing of Fontainebleau is predicated on a bad assumption: That people know what Fontainebleau is or that they give a shit.

Fontainebleau might be a thing in Florida, but the name means virtually nothing in Las Vegas. Everything about Fontainebleau’s advertising exudes arrogance. The “build it and they will come” attitude has failed miserably.

We are still scratching our head about this.

This masturbatory video had about 200 views until we publicly ridiculed it.

What is this Memorial Day message intended to mean, exactly? Does Fontainebleau want the public to associate its brand to cringing and head-scratching?

Arnell’s sensibility and strategies are holdovers from a different time. They are antiquated and the evidence of that is easy to see: The performance of Fontainebleau Las Vegas. There’s nobody at the helm, and the culture at Fontainebleau, prior to now, hasn’t fostered question-asking or disagreement with the decisions being made. Don’t get us started about Paul Anka as celebrity endorsement partner, legendary status or not.

Arnell may not have been personally responsible for the baffling advertising, but he signed off.

Here’s another ad. “Dare to Stay.” We dare you to guess what in the hell this woman is doing?

The truth is Fontainebleau can’t afford to keep screwing around and dumping its resources into the abyss. The resort is reportedly losing $400,000 a day.

Fontainebleau is reportedly spending $108,00 a day on advertising. That is physically painful to type.

What now? Let casino marketing professionals do what they do. Start with the logos. They are terrible. How bad? Fontainebleau had its main logo on the building, off center, for several months but removed it after we publicly badgered them to do so. Yes, we’re taking credit.

At first glance, it appears Fontainebleau is advertising paper clips.

Next, kill the lofty, pretentious, confusing tone, especially in social media. It’s not just forgettable, it’s actively repellant. Yes, Fontainebleau wants to be Wynn, but Wynn has established its brand and doesn’t even do much social marketing anymore. It doesn’t have to.

The bottom line: Get real. Modern marketing is about authenticity.

The most room for improvement is in Fontainebleau’s digital marketing. Find a tone that’s relevant to human beings. Stop talking about yourself non-stop. Be social (interact). Provide information or entertainment that’s of value and shareable. Lighten up and have fun.

We can’t build Fontainebleau’s marketing from scratch, but we suggest starting with a simple mission. Just show people how fantastic this place is.

Will that save Fontainebleau? No, not with its current players. Our guess is Fontainebleau will be out of the picture within a year. Koch, which owns 75% of Fontainebleau will run out of patience, and the resort will clean house and rebrand, in our humble opinion.

To be clear, while we sometimes seem to be criticizing Fontainebleau, we aren’t. We love the place and think it’s amazing. The choices made by leadership are often disappointing, and it’s hard to watch such a stunning resort shooting itself in the foot voluntarily every single day.

Peter Arnell should be thanked for his service and shown the door. His reported abrasive personality, lack of self-awareness and inability to accept the input of experienced people in the casino resort realm (hotel-casinos aren’t like regular hotels) have dug Fontainebleau’s hole deeper, a hole smoldering with the smoke and ash of talented individuals who are no longer at the resort, but who could have given it a fighting chance.

Let’s hope this is the last we hear of this ash hole.