Interactive Leif

JAHNA PELOQUIN | Updated 12/13/2012

Olson technical manager Nelson thrives on creative, hardworking environment.

Leif Nelson of Olson.

To say that advertising has changed over the years is an understatement. With every advance in technology -- especially in an age where Pinterest is king and the mobile phone has become the new personal computer -- comes a new way for companies to advertise.

We're not on "Mad Men"-era Madison Avenue anymore.

Interactive Web marketing is "the future of advertising," said Leif Nelson, technical manager at Minneapolis' Olson agency. "One-way mediums like broadcast and print advertising will continue to be powerful, but our expectations about what is and should be 'interactive' are changing quickly."

Nelson was a key player in Target's recent "Falling for You" campaign, an interactive, "shoppable" online short film starring Kristen Bell and directed by "Mad Men's" Phil Abraham. Despite the ever-changing landscape of technology, it all comes down to that most basic tenet of advertising: telling a story.

"There will always be a place for good storytelling, but how and to what extent we interact with that story is always changing," Nelson said.

Nelson "fell into" the advertising business after years as a Web developer and running his own video production company. He joined the Olson development team in 2009 as a senior software engineer before being promoted to his current position this year. "I've always had a strong creative streak," he said, "and it makes sense that I would gravitate toward an industry that has creative at its core, but I didn't explicitly seek it out."

Nelson gets to be part of everything from the project brief through the concepting, development and delivery of a project. His average day is a combination of writing code, doing proof-of-concept work, working with developers, project management, creative concepting, user experience design and working with quality-assurance teams. But to put it more simply, he said, "I love making cool stuff and sharing it with others."

The Twin Cities area boasts one of the nation's more vibrant, flourishing advertising industries, aided no doubt by the concentration of corporate headquarters -- Target, 3M, Best Buy -- and they're more than willing to work with agencies such as Olson to explore the benefits of technology.

"It's a place where, despite our ups and downs, people are generally more accepting of each other and appreciative of hard work, art and creativity," Nelson said. "That's pretty much a fertile breeding ground for highly creative endeavors, and it's hard to imagine a more highly creative and hardworking atmosphere than an ad agency."


Age: 33. Occupation: Technical director. Employer: Olson. Hire date: 2009. Education:Studied history at the University of Minnesota.