Jim Hoffman for years helped advertisers like Staples and Toyota find their way into NBC programs like “The Office” and “Today.” Now he wants to do the same for the many properties owned by A+E Networks as that company makes a bigger pitch to weave Madison Avenue into its content.
Hoffman, who worked at NBCUniversal for more than two decades, has joined A+E as executive vice president of strategic initiatives, and will bring developing content projects to advertisers’ attention well in advance of launch as well as find ways of creating content that features sponsors.
“It’s all about getting clients closer to the content,” said Hoffman, who rose during his tenure at NBCU to executive vice president of sales and marketing for NBC Entertainment, where he supervised ad sales for the NBC primetime schedule. “That’s their gold star. If they can get involved with the shows in a meaningful, contextual way, that’s what moves the needle for them.”
Hoffman will work across A+E media properties and suss out opportunities from in-house producers as well as third-party production outlets. He will work with Lance Still, senior vice president of branded content, who is based in Los Angeles. The pair will help find ideas for advertisers not only with A+E Studios, but also partner outlets like Superb Entertainment, led by Meryl Poster, and Propagate, led by Howard Owens.
A+E’s move comes as many traditional TV networks seek to supplement the business of running 30-second commercials with “bespoke” pieces of content that mirror the programming in which they appear. These vignettes often play off the shows they support and, so the theory goes, may prove less of an interruption than old-school ads. Viacom, Time Warner’s Turner, 21st Century Fox’s Fox Networks Group and NBCUniversal are among the companies doing more activity in this area.
TV networks are adopting the practice while Madison Avenue places more emphasis on using a broader array of data to find the group of consumers most likely to buy a product and bolstering efforts to appeal to them. A clever video about diapers that is placed in a program with strong appeal to expectant mothers, for example, may seem more relevant than a traditional spot that runs across various TV networks.
“Clients are recognizing that if I can put the right piece of content in the right place, that is a big deal,” said Peter Olsen, executive vice president of ad sales at A+E Networks, to whom Hoffman will report. “We feel pretty strongly that is going to become more and more important.” In 2015, A+E found a way to involve Boston Beer Co.s’ Samuel Adams in the History Channel series “Sons of Liberty.”
Hoffman won’t just be selling ways to dovetail with TV shows. He will also be able to present advertisers with chances to align with such things as Panna, a new mobile app focused on cooking that A+E has invested in, or Viceland, the new cable channel slated to launch in 2016 around content from Vice Media.
Hoffman, who worked at NBC for 26 years, left the company in October of 2014. He was known to be close with NBCU CEO Steve Burke. Both men are said to enjoy rowing.