40 Under 40 2017: Brian Flad

SVP and GM, Olson Engage, 37

Fast-growing agencies can struggle to retain the cultures that make them special. Brian Flad has played a critical role in protecting and maturing the people-centric, creative culture within Olson Engage’s flagship Chicago office and across its network while keeping a firm eye on the future.

"Brian has been a consummate leader in the growth and evolution of our agency for the last decade. He’s not only led the growth of MillerCoors, our oldest and biggest client, he’s been a cultural beacon and key mentor to many of our best and brightest over the years. There is a long list of talented team members who would count him among their friends, and also their favorite role models," explains Bryan Specht, Olson Engage president.

Since taking over the MillerCoors business in 2012, Flad has significantly grown what was already a mature and established relationship, boosting revenue by nearly 50%.

Flad achieved the feat by winning work on brands Olson didn’t previously handle, including Pilsner Urquell, Redd’s, Henry’s Hard Sodas, and Leinenkugel. He also further integrated creative work, adding experiential, packaging design, social media, video, and crowdsourcing components into campaigns to boost MillerCoors’ engagement with its audiences.

He stewarded strong growth on Kraft Heinz, a relationship that started with a single brand, Oscar Mayer, in 2012. Today, Olson Engage is AOR for not just Oscar Mayer, but also Planters, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Velveeta, Capri Sun, Gevalia, and Claussen, to name a few. That growth was possible in part because Flad helped win the confidence of Kraft Heinz’s communications team at the highest levels.

Colleagues say Flad is a remarkable mentor with an empowering leadership style. "Brian always challenges us to take on larger roles and to never be complacent," says senior account executive Konnor Schmaltz, who has worked with Flad since 2011. "He gives you opportunities, but always with the understanding that you’re accountable for delivering strong results."

  • At Dig Communications, Flad played a key role on Miller Brewing and was a driving force in growing the business.
  • After Olson Engage acquired Dig, Flad assumed leadership of the entire MillerCoors account and was promoted in 2016 to SVP and GM of the agency’s approximately 75-person headquarters office in Chicago.
  • In his free time, he’s an avid golfer, having traveled to play on fairways from Scotland to Florida.

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