Founder of Minneapolis-based Olson Dies at Age 56

John Olson Had a Yearlong Battle With Cancer

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John Olson, the founder of Minneapolis-based agency Olson, passed away following a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 56.

Mr. Olson opened the doors of his namesake agency in 1992. At the time, he expressed the view that that traditional advertising and marketing agencies were not adequately recognizing, connecting and empowering the communities that buy and promote their clients' products and brands.

Since that time, the shop -- which has its headquarters in the renovated Ford Center, built in 1913 as an assembly plant -- has built out its expertise in public relations, loyalty marketing and social media. It's also grown its footprint to offices in Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto to serve a client roster that includes General Mills, MillerCoors, Target, Wrigley and Saucony.

Beyond his shop, Mr. Olson also leaves a mark outside the boardroom, having founded The BrandLab in 2007. It was designed to introduce high school students from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to careers in advertising and marketing services. Many competing shops in Minneapolis participate in the program as well as several leading marketers.

"It has been a privilege to partner with John to continue advancing his vision," said Olson CEO John Partilla in a statement. "The best way for us to honor him is to continue to embrace his belief that Olson's greatest legacy is its future. To this end, we will be unwavering in our commitment to our clients, renewed in our passion to lead in the continually evolving digital landscape and striving to own the moment each and every day, as John would want us to be."

Mr. Olson is survived by his wife, Cindy and his three children. Information regarding donations and funeral- and memorial-service arrangements will be posted to

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