ICF Olson: PRWeek Global Agency Business Report 2016

"We acquired more clients and expanded existing accounts," Olson Engage president Bryan Specht says.

Bryan Specht, president, Olson Engage
Bryan Specht, president, Olson Engage

Principal: Bryan Specht, president, Olson Engage
Offices: Global: 54; U.S.: 35
Subsidiaries: ICF Jones & Stokes, ICF Macro, ICF Z- Tech, and Mostra, among others
Revenue: Global: $142,808,294; U.S.: $120,277,211

Revenue reported last year was restated to include revenue for non-advertising content work, digital and social strategy, events and comms consulting

ICF International consolidated several firms under the ICF Olson brand in March 2016, a year and a half after it bought Olson, including comms agency Olson Engage, for $295 million.

ICF SCM still exists as part of ICF International, but is focused on U.S. federal government work.

The combined firm is made up of four agency teams: Olson, focused on digital and advertising; Olson Engage, which has expertise in PR and social media; ICF Olson 1to1, which handles loyalty and CRM; and ICF Olson, which provides digital- and technology-enabled platforms and solutions.

Exceeding expectations
ICF Olson saw U.S. revenue growth of 7% year over year, from $112.5 million to about $120 million and 1% to $142 million globally, which surpassed Olson Engage president Bryan Specht’s expectations.

"Operationally, we acquired more clients and expanded existing accounts," he explains. "That said, eurozone challenges and foreign exchange dampened the financial impact of an operationally positive year."

Consumer work made up 34% of revenue, while 49% came from public affairs. In terms of account wins, the firm expanded its relationship with the CDC on the government side, including its digital media support services. Other wins included the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, the European Commission, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Also, Beam Suntory named Olson Engage its U.S. PR AOR for Jim Beam Bourbon, but the firm lost client Fitbit to FleishmanHillard and Burson-Marsteller after serving as the company’s PR AOR. "As Fitbit approached its IPO [last June] and went through team changes internally, we both found it was the right time to move in different directions," explains Specht.

In the U.S., the firm opened offices in Mississippi, Colorado, and Maryland, and Pretoria, South Africa, among others, but closed outposts in Spain, Montreal, and Paramus, New Jersey.

ICF Olson’s leadership team includes Margaret Murphy, president and COO of ICF Olson 1to1; Matthew Van Bergen, president of digital solutions, and Specht. They report to ICF International chairman and CEO Sudhakar Kesavan. New hires include former senior director of U.S. brand reputation at McDonald's Jeff Olson in a newly created EVP role; and Chris Barr as VP, federal digital services. Specht notes that ICF Olson had more staff turnover than usual last year, which he attributes to the firm’s ownership change, but he would not disclose numbers. He also believes the new structure will make its mark in the near future. 

"The combination of Olson and ICF is going to yield significant growth and deliver significant value for clients," says Specht.

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