Black Olive is an agency of big ideas, of strategy, of design, of process.

Of innovative connectors who build the bridge between vision and results.

We make marketing count, whether changing the world or improving the bottom line.

A story that grew up to become a novel

1976 was the year of the idea, of an agency driven by design; of brand development, consumer products & financial services. We morphed; mesmerized by database marketing and analytics.

We married creative and traditional direct response methodologies to make really great direct marketing campaigns that won on the bottom-line and in the awards. During the 90’s, we added website development, brought Content Management Systems (CMS) to our clients, and added e-commerce. During the next decade, we expanded digital marketing to deliver content rich email marketing, online advertising and digital PR. And, in 2016, Black Olive marks our tenth year as a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications agency.

Black Olive bottles 40 years of experience, talent and innovation into strategic, integrated marketing communication campaigns for incredible clients and for incredible causes. We have been honored by industry awards. But most important, we’ve been honored by our clients, many of whom have been with us for years.


Logo Slider

Even in an industry of innovative, forward-thinking people, Black Olive was an early adopter of the virtual agency concept. We have championed the flexibility & creativity of a virtual culture for over ten years. Our team members in three cities love it. Our clients love it because you gain:


Specialists are really specialists—not just someone assigned to your account with a title. You’ll never have someone working on your program with less than ten years of experience—because seasoned talent matters.


Pricing is flexible so budgets are met. You get the best talent for every project. Better yet, we extend the virtual concept to our network of talented production partners, saving you 20% or more in markup and commission fees.


Teams can be quickly ramped up or down to meet demanding deadlines or project size.  We are disciplined, organized, faster, and smarter.




Technology keeps us connected 24/7, helps share files and track projects. You never have to wonder how your project is going.



Creativity soars. Great ideas don’t typically come in a cubicle. From creative to business strategy, people need space to let their thoughts breathe.




We are big believers in personal relationships. A virtual agency doesn’t mean absent—we like face time and phone time.


Staying Connected

Black Olive is a 100% woman-owned agency. As a socially-responsible company, we include gender & ethnic diversity, environmental stewardship, social justice and human rights in our selection of team members, suppliers, and clients.

Karen Pittenger, Founder & President

Karen splits her time between helping clients build marketing communication strategies and pioneering innovative business concepts. She started her first design and communication studio at the tender age of 21 and was President of the top 100 direct marketing agency Haynes & Pittenger Direct. Through epic successes and heroic failures, she brought Black Olive to life as a legacy agency.  Her work has earned DMA’s Echo award for Innovation in Direct Marketing, 4A's  awards, and other industry recognition. Team executives report to Karen and she is the senior strategist and client contact. Karen serves on the BMA Chicago Board of Directors and chairs the mPower Scholarship program, and is the Chairman of the StreetWise Board of Directors. She was part of the 2008 Illinois delegation for the Democratic National Convention, serving on the DNC Rules Committee. She is a 1976 graduate of Purdue University.



Marketing that counts.