Management and technology consultancy ICF jumped into traditional marketing services with the acquisition of a series of digital and other agencies in the 2010s, culminating in 2014 with Olson, then one of the top five US independent full-service agencies, for $295m. These various units were merged to create ICF Olson, offering a full range of services from traditional advertising and CRM to digital, PR and promotions. Several other units continued to operate separately under their own names, including PR and experiential arm Olson Engage. However, at the end of 2018, all of the various marketing-oriented units under ICF's control were combined under the new name ICF Next, and Olson and other brands were eliminated. The agency offers a full range of services including traditional creative and digital, but is perhaps best-known for PR and promotions. There are seven offices across the US, two more in Canada, three in the UK and two more in Belgium and India respectively. Olson was founded in Minneapolis by former Campbell Mithun creative director John Olson in 1992. He reduced his involvement following the sale of the business in 2009 to private equity fund KRG Capital, and sadly died in 2013 at the age of just 56. In the mean time, the agency had acquired a string of other businesses including loyalty agency Denali in 2010. Media and marketing veteran John Partilla was recuited in 2013 to lead Olson but left following its acquisition. Former IBM iX executive John Armstrong was hired in 2018 to lead the newly merged ICF Next, but was succeeded in 2020 by Kris Tremaine. Parent entity ICF reported total revenues in 2019 of $1.5bn, of which almost two-thirds came from government clients, mainly in the US but also elsewhere. The US Department of Health & Social Services alone accounted for 16% of group revenues. The group doesn't break out revenues by segment; however PR industry watcher PRovoke estimated fee income from PR of $170m in 2019. John Wasson is CEO of ICF. ICF itself traces its roots back to 1969 when it was launched as Inner City Fund to help promote minority-owned businesses.
Capsule checked 24th December 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 5th Dec 2018: Consultancy ICF announced the merger of all its various marketing services subsidiaries, of which the best known is probably CRM and PR agency Olson, under the banner of ICF Next. Also joining the merged entity will be Pulse Point in North America; The Future Customer and We Are Vista in the UK and ICF Mostra in Belgium. The Olson brand will be dropped.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Oct 2014: Another major independent US agency was taken off the shelf with the acquisition of Minneapolis-based Olson by corporate and public affairs consultancy ICF. Olson is led by former Time Warner, Y&R and Dentsu executive John Partilla. It offers a wide range of digital, PR and promotional marketing services for clients including Hyatt, McDonald's, Target, MillerCoors and Sharp Electronics. Price tag was $295m, a little over twice Olson's 2013 revenues of $126m. Olson had been owned since 2009 by private equity firm KRG.
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