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Minneapolis Olson advertising agency renamed as part of ICF Next

December 4, 2018

The Olson name, which for nearly 30 years has been a staple in the Minneapolis advertising world, will go away as the agency’s parent company, ICF International, rebrands the firm along with several of its other marketing businesses across the world into new agency ICF Next.

ICF Olson, which has already been restructured and rebranded in the four years since it was purchased, will largely remain the same minus the new name change, company leaders said before the Tuesday morning announcement.

“Our location in Minneapolis has just been a flagship for us,” said John Armstrong, president of ICF Next.

ICF Olson employs more than 300 people in its Minneapolis offices, making it one of the largest marketing firms in the Twin Cities. The ICF Olson creative agency, along with its public relations arm Olson Engage, loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM) business Olson1to1, and customer experience agency Olson Digital will all still be based in Minneapolis under the ICF Next umbrella.

Armstrong will lead more than 1,700 ICF Next employees across more than a dozen offices in the United States, Canada, Europe and India when ICF Next officially launches early next year.

Other ICF divisions that will be repositioned as part of ICF Next include PulsePoint Group, an Austin, Texas-based management and digital consulting firm which Olson bought in 2013, Brussels-based communication firm ICF Mostra, and U.K.-based loyalty strategy company The Future Customer and the We Are Vista communications agency, which ICF just announced it was acquiring in October.

“Individually [the agencies were] very good. … Together [we’ll be] even better in the way we deliver outcomes to our clients,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong, who previously was one of the founding executives who ran North America for the IBM iX digital agency after he was a partner at Big Four accounting firm PwC, leading their customer relationship and experience strategy practice, was named executive vice president and group lead of ICF Olson in September. Armstrong is based in Chicago but will travel frequently to ICF Next’s offices including Minneapolis, he said.

Since Olson was bought by Virginia-based consulting firm ICF International in 2014 for $295 million, there have been numerous changes at the local firm.

In 2016, ICF consolidated Olson and several other recent acquisitions into ICF Olson. Later that year, former president and chief operating officer Margaret Murphy left the company as the firm was reconfigured. Murphy’s exit was followed by the departure of several other agency leaders the following year. Earlier this year, chief executive Louise Clements also left ICF Olson.

Bryan Specht, whose role was recently expanded to manage the public relations, social media and brand businesses, will still be at the firm. Guy Cierzan, who has led ICF Olson’s loyalty and CRM business will continue to do so while serving as managing director of the Minneapolis ICF Next office and report to Armstrong.

Cierzan said the branding changes and further collaboration among once separate agencies is not only advantageous for clients but also a good recruitment tool.

“Talent is such an increasingly important part of our business,” he said.

Olson has recently been known for its loyalty work for Amtrak, social media posts for Skittles featuring football star Marshawn Lynch, and brand work for companies like Target and Bissell. The late John Olson started the Olson agency in 1992, and built it into a creative powerhouse.

Cierzan said ICF Next will still be supportive of the BrandLab, a nonprofit created by Olson as a way to connect diverse youth to possible careers in advertising.

The disappearance of the Olson brand name follows a trend of other local agencies that have been swallowed up by large companies. In 2016, global marketing firm McCann Worldgroup announced it would consolidate its Twin Cities offices spelling the end of the legacy Mithun agency, which was rebranded to McCann Minneapolis.

Most of the biggest marketing agencies in the Twin Cities are owned by large holding companies. Last week, Periscope, the area’s largest independent agency, was announced to being sold to Wisconsin printing company Quad/Graphics Inc. for $132.5 million. The Periscope name is currently still intact.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @nicolenorfleet

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