Minneapolis ad agency Olson picks New York exec as CEO

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2013 - 9:04 PM

John Partilla, a 27-year media industry veteran, replaces Kevin DiLorenzo, who led the Minneapolis ad agency for 10 years.

John Partilla

Minneapolis ad agency Olson revealed its goal to become a national player Tuesday when it named longtime New York agency executive John Partilla as CEO.

Partilla, most recently chief operating officer of Dentsu Network West, brings 27 years of media and agency background to Olson, including stints as global group president of media giants Clear Channel Communications and Time Warner.

"Olson is a great shop that has chosen its own arena to fight in. I believe Olson can now fight in any arena, even if it's outside its weight class," Partilla said in an interview. "This is a company that has the bones to do even better."

Partilla, who takes Olson's helm next week, replaces Kevin DiLorenzo, who will remain with the agency "as a significant shareholder, director and senior adviser."

DiLorenzo will work with Partilla on the transition for the next 30 to 45 days and then it will be determined if there is another role in the agency for the 10-year Olson veteran.

"Kevin's contributions were invaluable," agency founder John Olson said in a statement. "He was the perfect leader for consolidating our acquisitions and creating a model focused on forward-thinking brands."

Olson said Partilla's experience with national and international brands makes him "the absolute right person to help drive us to the next level."

Partilla said his courtship with Olson lasted about two months.

"I'm a big fan of the Midwest," Partilla said, noting previous work with retailer Target and General Mills. "But the primary reason I took the job is because of Olson and what it offers."

Partilla said his first priority is to increase revenue for Olson, which is $90 million a year, and the revenue of its clients. Second, he said, is to bring in more national accounts, and his third goal is to continue Olson's innovation in the digital and mobile arenas.

"Olson is doing great breakthrough work that doesn't get the profile it deserves," Partilla said.

Advertising professor John Purdy said Olson has as good a chance as any agency in the Twin Cities to become a national player.

"Olson has got the kind of credentials and attitude that would work on a national scale," said Purdy, a former agency executive who teaches at the University of St. Thomas. "They have good creative and have been adding to their repertoire of skills."

Partilla inherits an agency that has become a full-service marketing and advertising destination in recent years.

Under DiLorenzo's direction, Olson has more than doubled in size to nearly 450 employees with a new headquarters near Target Field and offices in Chicago, Toronto and a satellite in San Francisco. Since 2009, revenue has nearly tripled.

Acquisitions since 2010 include the Minneapolis-based loyalty marketing firm Denali, Dig Communications in Chicago and mobile agency MyThum in Toronto.

Olson bills itself as the sixth-largest independent ad agency in the U.S. with a client list that includes Amtrak, Best Buy, Target and MillerCoors.

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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