Sarah Hofstetter is CEO of 360i which was named this year's top digital agency by Advertising Age, Adweek, MediaPost and Mashable, in addition to being recognized among the industry's most innovative companies by Fast Company and Creativity. This success builds on four years of distinguished agency recognitions, including being named a “Best Place to Work” by Advertising Age and Crain’s New York Business.
Since joining 360i in 2005, Sarah has created and rapidly evolved the agency’s industry-leading brand strategy, social marketing and emerging media practices, helping brands such as Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, OREO and others connect with more than 250 million consumers every day. Brands turn to Sarah to help them transform their communications by putting digital and social behaviors at the center of their marketing strategy, creative and overall communications.
How did you get into the advertising industry?
I started in journalism, which gave me a lot of the skills I needed help solve marketer’s business problems. Journalism teaches you how to tell stories succinctly, how to unlock your curiosity, the importance of meeting deadlines, and how to work in a fast-paced environment. When I came to 360i, I saw first-hand the ways digital and social media were challenging marketers to rethink how they were communicating brand stories and ways journalism skills could come into play, which ultimately led to the launch of our influencer marketing and social media practices. Even now, I find that I use my journalism skills every day.
Which campaigns that you have executed are you most proud of and why?
That’s like asking which of your children is your most favorite. I’m incredibly proud of all of the work we are doing for brands like Oreo, Coca-Cola, Hanes, HBO, and Oscar Mayer. However, I’m most proud of the work my daughter recently did to raise more than $15,000 for Masbia, the only kosher soup kitchen in the NYC area. She created a video, set up a fundraising site on crowdrise.com and solicited donors to help raise awareness and drive conversions. I didn’t execute the work, but I did oversee it, and it was an amazing effort to work on together.
How does your firm stay successful in this digital era?
It’s easy to get distracted by bright shiny objects with the proliferation of so many startups, new technologies and more, so we put some method behind the madness by defining clear frameworks to determine what solutions are best for client and each scenario. We often look at marketing challenges through a simple lens of understanding the currency – what are brands giving to consumers that will then enable them to give back to the brand, whether that’s preference, advocacy or ultimately purchase? What’s great about our agency is that we are all unified by our culture of insatiable curiosity. We believe that the more curious we are, the more powerful our ideas will be, which keeps us always focused on what’s next.
What is your opinion on publicly traded advertising companies versus privately owned?
What are the biggest industry trends and how do you capitalize on them?
It’s amazing that we’re living in an age where people won’t even go to the bathroom without their mobile phones, yet most Fortune 100 companies are still not planning their communications strategies with digital at the center. So while I wouldn’t categorize “digital behavior is pervasive” as a trend because it’s been happening for a while, I’ve got to believe that we’re hitting a point where marketers will actually start to change how they’re planning, activating and optimizing their communications with their customers.
Who is your greatest influence in becoming a successful CEO?
My predecessor, Bryan Wiener. As CEO of 360i for 10 years, he built this agency for the modern era by navigating where there are no roads. I have large shoes to fill.
What is your life motto?
Hope is a terrible strategy. Just make it happen.
What literature is currently on your desk or Internet browser?
”The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. Great recommendation from my mentor Bryan Wiener.
What's next for your firm?
Our motto is “always on, always evolving.” The only thing that is certain for marketers is change, and digital is driving that change faster than ever before.
We are making a conscious investment in our culture and the future of our business by giving our teams the flexibility and support to advance their ideas about where they think consumer behavior is headed. We don’t have a crystal ball, but our job is to help clients stay ahead of consumer behavior change by ensuring digital isn’t just a component of the marketing plan, but a real mindset.
Previously, Sarah served as President of 360i and Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy & Emerging Media. Prior to joining 360i, she was President and Founder of Kayak Communications, a marketing agency focused on developing brand strategy and communications plans for new media brands. Before starting her own agency, Sarah spent ten years at Net2Phone, one of the world's first providers of VoIP technology. Sarah lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.