The Olson Agency Name Is Going Global as the Marketing Division of Its Parent Company

ICF Olson has 800 staffers in 14 offices

In case you had any doubt that tech-driven consulting firms are becoming major players in the ad agency world, this week has provided two prime examples.

Yesterday, we learned that Deloitte Digital had purchased San Francisco-based creative shop Heat, Adweek's 2015 Breakthrough Agency of the Year.

Today, another consulting company, ICF International, announced it will further embrace its acquisition of Minneapolis agency Olson by branding its marketing services as ICF Olson.

Sudhakar Kesavan ICF

"In unifying these capabilities, we're answering an urgent demand in the marketplace," said ICF chief executive Sudhakar Kesavan. "There are many technology-focused providers who work well with CTOs and CIOs, and many creative agencies that excel at creative- and communications-oriented solutions, but ICF Olson is the rare agency that truly excels at both."

ICF began buying agencies four years ago, making its biggest splash in late 2014 with the $295 million acquisition of Minneapolis creative shop Olson, which had 545 staffers at the time.

Now, some of the company's other agency assets—such as digital service firm Ironworks and engagement shop CityTech—will be absorbed into ICF Olson operations.

All told, the group counts more than 800 employees across 14 offices in the U.S., Canada and India. Key clients include Amtrak, Bauer, Hyatt, Luxottica, MillerCoors and Wrigley.

Moving ahead, there will be four distinct units: Olson (for digital and advertising services), Olson Engage (PR, social media), ICF Olson 1to1 (loyalty, CRM) and ICF Olson (digital- and technology-enabled solutions).

The group is led by Margaret Murphy, president of Olson and ICF Olson 1to1; Bryan Specht, president of Olson Engage; and Matthew Van Bergen, president of digital solutions; along with chief growth officer Michael Brown, senior vice president Eric Hudgens and chief talent officer Kevin Hansen.

ICF ranks among an increasing number of global consulting and technology companies that have made agency buys in order to compete for corporate marketing dollars. Others include IBM, PricewaterHouse Coopers and Deloitte.

IBM has been on acquisition spree lately, including buying the highly regarded digital marketing shop Resource/Ammirati. 

Deloitte, in the news this week for acquiring Heat, has made about a dozen such buys in recent years since creating Deloitte Digital as a repository for its agency holdings.