"She didn't think I was smart enough to go into advertising," said Ms. Hoffman, who dropped out of school and started on a journey that took her from working in day care to writing coupons to creative director on such brands as Nike, Coca Cola and Miller Genuine Draft beer.
One of seven partners at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and one of the few women creatives in the the top ranks of male-driven creative agencies, she most recently headed up work on the new MGD "black and white" campaign, including one in which African-American couples dance to an operatic score.
Now, Ms. Hoffman is about to open the Wieden & Kennedy office in London. She has plenty of credentials for the job. Ms. Hoffman established the agency's first out-of-Portland beachhead in 1992 when she opened its Amsterdam office.
"Our biggest challenge is how do you make a hybrid between this agency and a British agency," she says. Among the cultural differences she finds in hiring in Europe is the reluctance of some employees to "speak in their own voice."
When David Kennedy left the agency in 1993, Ms. Hoffman returned to Portland and for a time became a creative partner to Mr. Wieden, whom she first met when the three worked at a small Portland shop.
"It's unfortunate a lot of women haven't been served the opportunity" offered her by Mr. Wieden and Mr. Kennedy. She attributes her success to having a lot of backbone.
"I'm tough," she says. "That really helps."