S.F.’s Lewis Retires

Roger Lewis, who took a small San Francisco shop with just two clients and helped build it into an agency with more than $85 million in billings, is retiring as principal of Hoffman/Lewis.

Lewis, 59, cited health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family. He will spend half the year in the Bay Area and the other half on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Other staffers will take on his strategy and planning responsibilities.

“I’ve had two open-heart surgeries, and at some point, if God is sending you a message, you probably have to take it,” Lewis said.

Lewis, a New York native and Yale graduate, started his 35-year ad career at J. Walter Thompson in New York, where, he said, he was among the first staffers to use an electronic calculator. He spent nine years at General Foods, then moved to San Francisco, where he worked again at JWT before opening Lewis, Browand & Associates in Oakland in 1985. The shop merged with Bob Hoffman Creative Services in 1991 to form Hoffman/Lewis.

“From a small shop on the Oakland waterfront we have grown to be the largest independent agency in San Francisco,” Hoffman said, adding that Lewis’ leadership was crucial.

Over the years, the agency added marquee accounts such as McDonald’s and built a staff of close to 60. During this recession, it has cut only three people while other shops were forced to make larger cuts or close.

“People in advertising are exceptionally interesting, and I’m going to miss the strategic challenges,” Lewis said. “But I won’t miss the fact that the highs are high and the lows are low. You can be very successful one day and beat up the next.”