360i’s Sarah Hofstetter: Journalists can find a home at agencies

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Sarah Hofstetter is the global CEO at 360i, the hotshot agency that’s behind some of the most buzzed-about work in the industry. The funny thing is, this is Hofstetter’s first agency job. She joined the shop in 2005 and never looked back. That’s after spending time at the New York Times as a reporter and founding her own PR company.

Today, Hofstetter, who recently appeared on a Working Mother magazine list of “50 most powerful moms” alongside Beyonce and Marissa Mayer, joined the Dentsu-owned agency in 2005, and rose up the ranks to become global CEO last February. She joined us on the Digiday podcast to talk about the media and marketing worlds and how they’re colliding, and what it’s like being religious inside an agency.


“Journalism is the kind of profile we’re looking in.”
“We were talking a couple years ago about the correlations between the skills you get in journalism school and the skills you get in advertising. There is a lot of complement, but it’s not connected. We saw that as an opportunity and that translated into a class we started running at the agency which was basically journalism 101. If you have the ability to tell a story concisely and bring the reader in from the lede graf all the way through the rest of the story, you’re able to create immersive experiences. Now that applies whether you’re a creative or account person or reporting analyst, you’ve got to bring the audience in and do it concisely. So we started this journalism 101 class. It turned out we did hire a lot of former journalists and we didn’t realize it. Journalism is the kind of profile we’d be looking in.”

“I sell bacon for a living.”
“It felt very tough for me to move from my dream of being an unbiased reporter that would expose the world’s wrongs. And now, I sell bacon for a living. I think when we look at people who move to the dark side if you will a lot of challenges come up when you go from unbiased reporting to writing marketing speak. The skills need to be cross-trained regardless. That’s where the culture of curiosity becomes so important.”

“We all struggle with balance, but it’s not a women’s issue”
“It’s less of an issue than it used to be. I don’t know what it’s like in other agencies . I see plenty of diversity in our client base and our four walls. I was on a panel a couple weeks ago and there was this lament on the importance of women and powerful women. I agree we all struggle with balance, but I don’t think it’s a women issue. It’s a people issue. The ad business is tough. When you’re trying to do work and preserve client relationships and you have a personal life, you want to have the time to enjoy the life you’ve chosen. That doesn’t matter if you’re a mom, or dad, or you have no kids, or you’re dealing with elderly parents, or a pet, or you just want to go to Soulcycle. It doesn’t matter. Gender diversity has been played to a point where it can alienate people who are not in that specific demographic.”

“I just got hungry.”
“You want to be judged for your capability, not necessarily the faith-based choices you make. I’ve certainly realized I’m more of an anomaly I realized. I’m not sure how many folks are observant than aren’t just coming out about it. When I go out with clients I may not want to talk about it. It creates a sense of distance, especially because social environment is so critical to the success of relationships. And the way to socialize is go out, and go for a meal. And when you have a double-wrapped serving of kosher food coming in, it can create a sense of distance. so for a while, I didn’t want to acknowledge that. That said, I just got hungry. I really wanted to eat.”


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