Oh, Mary

Michael R. Hoffman 1949-2019

March 25, 2019
Roger van Oosten

At various times over his long career, Michael R. Hoffman was known as a strategic planner, a copywriter, an account manager, a managing director, a creative director, a public relations strategist, an ad guy, and, after the TV show became a hit, a Mad Man.

If this suggests that he was ‘versatile,’ it is misleading.

Because no matter what it said on his business card, Michael always did one thing.

He did what was needed.

So it wasn’t surprising that on a sunny, summer day in 2018, I walked into work and found Michael outside mowing the lawn in front of our office building.

“Michael, what are you doing?”

“Oh, it’s no problem, Rog,” He said. “I had a lawn mower and I had a station wagon.”

He said it in a way that made it seem perfectly normal to expect that someone who owned a lawnmower and a vehicle to transport it was somehow destined to travel the earth performing random acts of mowing kindness.

Kindness was the essence of Michael. He never seemed to have a bad word about anyone, and he was generous in his praise of colleagues. Over the past week, my colleagues described him as extremely caring, warm, funny and endlessly supportive. I can confirm all these traits.

As a professional, you could count on him to always deliver critical thinking and great work products. That is rare in any business setting, but Michael was a rare person. In my time working with him, he never turned down an assignment. He always did whatever was needed.

Michael enjoyed a long, productive advertising career.  In his 40 years in the industry, he worked with Wieden & Kennedy, WONGDOODY, Borders, Perrin & Norrander and other firms.

He did groundbreaking work. He managed campaigns that changed public perceptions and drove massive brand loyalty for national brands such as Nike, Speedo, Columbia Sportswear, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard. 

At Wieden & Kennedy in the early 1980s, Hoffman was a key member of the team that helped Nike grow into a national athletic gear powerhouse, partly through landmark advertising campaigns including “Just Do It.” His tenure contributed to Wieden & Kennedy’s rise to industry prominence.

At Borders, Perrin & Norrander in Portland and, later, in Seattle, Hoffman won and managed the advertising campaigns for Avia Athletic Footwear, Columbia Sportswear, Henry Weinhard’s, Starbucks, and many others. He won multiple creative awards for his work.

Somehow during his busy career, he found time to be the co-founder the American Advertising Museum in Portland, Oregon. The museum was featured on the popular PBS show Antiques Roadshow. He was proud of the museum.

He joined Action Mary in January 2017 as a strategic planner where he led new business efforts and managed several clients for the agency.

I could name dozens of other professional accomplishments, but I prefer to remember the man. He was a mentor, a constant source of inspiration, and a firebrand.

He also had the ability to intensely focus on problems and find a way to solve them.  He had a powerful intellect and I lived for the days he put it to use.

One day, a client displayed distain over an idea we had for them. Michael didn’t get disheartened. He just tapped his finger to his forehead.

“They’ve got me in the mood to use this thing,” he said. “And, by God, I’ll use it on them.”

And he did.

He loved sports and history, and he had an abundance of great stories to tell about his life’s adventures. Those stories were priceless.

He had a life long interest in the John F. Kennedy assassination and his obsession with it showed up in odd ways. One day, he and I arrived at the office at the same time. We were the first to arrive. Upon entry, we heard some men at work in the basement. They had been scheduled to arrive much later but got there before anyone else was around. Yet there they were working away.

“I wonder how they got into the building without a key,” I said to Michael.

“Oh, people get into buildings all the time, I mean Jack Ruby got into the police station and how did that happen?” he said.

It was an honor to work with Michael. We developed a rare working partnership. On some days, it felt like we could take on and whip any challenge. We often did.

“Come on, Rog,” he’d always say. “We’ve got this.”

I’m not sure what I’m going to do without him. I don’t own a station wagon or a lawnmower.

All of us at Action Mary will miss him. And we may never find another colleague like Michael, who always did what was needed and always found such joy in doing it.

Goodbye, Michael.


Michael R. Hoffman is survived by his wife, Lorelei (Callahan), his daughters Erin, Annie Lorelei, and Jessica Allen, who is married to Jeff Allen, and mother to Payton Jane Allen and Jordan Mae Allen. Michael is also survived by his son Michael Arthur, who is father to Tula Hoffman. Michael has three brothers, Joseph, Mark and Cary Hoffman. 

In lieu of flowers, the Hoffman family asks you to consider a donation to www.sightlife.org or The Center for Infectious Disease at www.cidresearch.org. He supported both organizations during his lifetime.