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Recently in Olson/Minneapolis Category

DennisRyan_Snowmen.jpegA lot of folks have been wondering for some time about the future of Element 79/Chicago. Now that its chief creative officer Dennis Ryan is exiting to become chief creative officer at Olson/Minneapolis, the wondering is sure to reach an even more fevered pitch.

The truth of the matter is Element 79/Chicago has been a shadow of its former self since PepsiCo pulled out vast chunks of business over a very short of period of time several years ago. Ryan and CEO Brian Williams never could find the new business needed to patch up the gaping hole the major account losses left in the agency's client roster.

Ryan is now jumping to a Minneapolis shop that bills itself as one of the top 10 independent full-service agencies in North America. That may very well be the case, but what Olson doesn't have is a high profile creative reputation. Is Ryan the creative person to give them that? Some astute observers in the local ad community seriously doubt that Ryan could, given his inability to help pull Element 79 out of the deep hole it fell into after the PepsiCo pullout.

If nothing else, however, Ryan has proved savvy at keeping one or two steps ahead of any troubles that might be threatening to befall him. He could see the walls closing in around him at JWT/Chicago, when he jumped to Element 79. And some speculate that could have been the case as well with his decision to jump to Olson.

But the question remains: whither Element 79? Will the shop finally merge with DDB/Chicago, as many have suggested could be a relatively painless way to deal with Element 79's uncertain future?

Or will Williams try to go out and find some hotshot creative whippersnapper who could transform the shop overnight and make it the hot spot it hasn't been in quite some time. Some might say it's never been a particularly hot shop, but we'll leave that discussion for a later date.

For now, we will watch and see what success Ryan has in Minneapolis, where he will eventually relocate. Ryan starts his new job Mar. 7.

The deal apparently calls for Ryan to live in Chicago for the next year and commute four days a week to Minneapolis and work one day a week at Olson's Chicago office, which is currently the outpost for Dig Communications, a public relations firm Olson recently acquired.

That one-year window should give both Olson and Ryan ample time to decide if the marriage is going to work. An Olson spokeswoman said Olson expects to expand its Dig operations in Chicago into a full-service advertising agency at some point in the future.

Ryan had this to say about the new gig: "I can't think of a more exciting creative job right now than mashing upon really smart marketing specialities into new brand ideas at Olson." There you go.

Olson clients include Lipton tea, Amtrak, Target, General Mills and Fifth Third Bank.

Dig Communications, a Chicago-based public relations firm, has been acquired by Olson/Minneapolis, a firm that includes both advertising and public relations units. The acquisition is part of Olson's larger game plan to offer a completely integrated range of services to its clients. Olson's existing public relations practice includes 12 people in its Minneapolis headquarters.

The Dig firm has 40 people in its flagship Chicago office, which will now become the epicenter for Olson's entire public relations unit. Among Dig's clients are MillerCoors and Southwest Airlines.

Dig founder Pete Marino will oversee Olson's public relations efforts going forward and report to Olson CEO Kevin DiLorenzo. With the addition of Dig, Olson can now claim to be one of the top 10 independent marketing companies in the United States. The Dig name will be retired, and Dig's Chicago outpost will become the Olson/Chicago office.

Steve_Peckham_Dodgeball_PR-1.jpgWhat a hoot! The very pleasant Steve Peckham has turned up as senior vice-president and director of holistic services at Olson/Minneapolis. It's a new position. In his new role at Olson, it sounds as if Peckham will have a lot on his plate. Among other things he will oversee public relations, account management and interactive disciplines. In addition, he will provide senior leadership for some of the agency's largest clients.

Denizens of the Chicago ad industry no doubt will recall that for a while the very pleasant Peckham was brought in from Edelman/Chicago to man Burnett's empty public relations department, which had been gutted due to a combination of firings and departures for greener pastures. At the time he was recruited for the Burnett assignment, Peckham may not have known much about the intricate workings of an ad agency -- especially one as intricate and political as Burnett -- but he was unfailingly pleasant and willing to attempt to handle any request.

Clearly, he managed to learn enough from his time at Burnett to impress the folks at Olson. While Minneapolis may seem a cold and distant outpost to some, we know Peckham lived and worked there previously. So for him, it's more of a homecoming. For Chicago, well, Peckham's departure, if nothing else, deprives this city and its ad industry of one of its most pleasant persons.



About the blogger

Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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