Olson Acquires Digital Consultancy PulsePoint

Move is Latest in Agency-as-Consultant Trend

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After nearly three acquisition-free years, indie agency Olson is buying PulsePoint, an Austin, Texas-based management and digital-consulting firm.

John Partilla
John Partilla

PulsePoint essentially advises companies on communications and marketing-management challenges, with a focus on social and digital engagement. It also specializes in consulting with the C-suite rather than marketing departments, later bringing in agencies to execute on digital strategies it helps set.

The deal gives PulsePoint an agency to help bring its strategic recommendations to life. "We take our clients through the strategy, work through change management, and then hand-off the execution," said PulsePoint founding partner Jeff Hunt in a statement. "Now with Olson, our clients can access a world-class offering in mobile, social engagement, technology integration, execution and [Olson's CRM offering] 1to1, which is something no other potential partnership presented."

"It's critical for all of our offerings to be 'best alone, and even better together,'" said Olson CEO John Partilla in a statement. "PulsePoint Group allows us to continue to deliver on that promise, and it brings tools and resources that will be valued by clients across our entire agency."

The acquisition is the latest in a trend in the agency world where some shops are increasingly taking on a consultant role as consultants like Accenture and Deloitte move into the agency world.

Olson in June 2010 bought Denali, a Minneapolis-based loyalty marketing agency. In December 2010, Olson acquired Dig Communications, a Chicago-based PR shop. In February 2011, Olson bought MyThum, a Toronto-based mobile-marketing firm.

PulsePoint in November struck a deal with Publicis Groupe's Starcom in which the media agency utilizes the company's Social Media Accelerator, a tool that helps clients figure out how they should be using social to achieve their specific objectives based on a database of case studies from other large companies.

The deal pushes Olson's total revenue past $100 million, according to the agency, with more than 70% of that revenue coming from digital and social-media work. Olson ranked as the 112th-largest agency in 2012 in the U.S., with $83.2 million in revenue, a 0.5% increase from 2011, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

PulsePoint's 26 employees bring Olson's total to about 500 across its offices in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Toronto, San Francisco and now, with the PulsePoint acquisition, Austin and Los Angeles.

Olson in January named Mr. Partilla CEO, replacing Kevin DiLorenzo after nearly 10 years with the agency. Mr. Partilla came to Olson after serving as Dentsu Network West's chief operating officer, a role he'd had since January 2011. In November, Olson named Mitchell Caplan as the agency's chief marketing officer, replacing Bob Molhoek, who took on a new role, senior VP-organic client growth.

In October, Olson was named electronics company Sharp's lead agency following a review.

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