EPISODE #43 || Matt Johnson and Jay Kamath, Founders of HAYMAKER

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Ever wonder what it's like to start your own agency? Co-founders of HAYMAKER—Matt Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer and Jay Kamath, Chief Creative Officer—give us a peek into what's on their minds as they prepare for their first interns. Hear about the collaboration that inspired the agency (and how you can be a better partner to your creative or strategy teams), how to start forming your POV as junior talent, and why you shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. Plus, lots and lots of sports metaphors!

Heads up: LA! I'm moderating a panel for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month hosted by RPA on May 30. RSVP here to hear from and meet industry leaders from Anomaly, POSSIBLE, and HAYMAKER (Jay is a panelist!).

Introducing the We Are Next Index, a crowdsourced directory of resources that help students and jr. talent start and slay in their careers. Check out the list and help us build the Index by submitting a resource you love!

Topics Discussed

  • How an architecture student and journalism buff found their way into advertising, the lessons learned from chasing dream jobs, and being humble when starting your career.
  • What they look for first when reviewing portfolios. 
  • The collaboration that inspired HAYMAKER, and its goal to create the next generation of strategically-minded people (no matter what your role).
  • How young creatives and strategists can be better partners to each other.
  • What they look for in interns, and what their first cohort of summer interns can expect. 
  • How to start forming your point of view as junior talent, why you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes, and why it’s okay that not everyone is great at sharing their ideas in a meeting (vs. one-on-one or in an email).
  • Pressure testing your own ideas and thinking before anyone else does. 
  • Turning the interviewing tables on Natalie and asking her about using creativity in strategy and how she describes what a strategist does.

Mic Drops

“I don’t even look at the ads, because we’re just inundated with ads. The first thing I click on is the ‘About Me’. I just want to learn about the person. […] Even before that, if there’s a side project, what else are you into besides advertising. Because that’s a much better indicator of your creativity or your interests or what you might bring to the table than a series of three print ads.”

“What drives almost everything a strategist does? It’s empathy. You should write a script. You should write it to time. You should find out how difficult it is to write a 30 or 60 second radio script to time, hitting all of the product features. Then when you go to the creative, you won’t give them a brief that won’t help them with that process.”

"Being able to recover from a professional mistake is what will almost shape you more than your successes. I made some big mistakes in early days, and some of them were really hard to swallow at first. bEcause you feel like, 'I put in so much effort and so much time, and I still fucked it up.' But they should know that we're not going anywhere. We're not going to turn you outside and forget about you. For us, that's the moment where we're like, cool! This is a moment where they're going to get better."

Resources Mentioned

Keep in Touch


Jay Kamath, Founder, Chief Creative Officer HAYMAKER
Throughout his career Jay has consistently created culturally impactful work for brands such as Nike, Activision, ESPN and Sonos. He’s been a creative force behind some of the most iconic brand campaigns of the past decade, including Jay-Z releasing his album “Magna Carta Holy Grail” exclusively on Samsung devices, and Kenny Powers’ hostile corporate takeover of K-Swiss. Jay hails from Augusta, GA, enjoys cheering for his home state’s mediocre sports franchises and butchering Usher or Enrique Iglesias at local karaoke bars.

Matt Johnson, Founder, Chief Strategy Officer HAYMAKER
Matt co-founded HAYMAKER in 2017, working with clients like 23andMe, the truth initiative, Reef, Netflix and Eagle Creek. Throughout his career, Matt has helped build iconic brands such as adidas, Coors Light, ESPN, and Instagram. His strategic insight helped truth win The Most Effective Brand in North America by Effie Worldwide and led to adidas to be recognized as Ad Age’s A-List Marketer of the Year. Johnson has also worked as a voice actor for 20 years, starring in the critically acclaimed HBO animated series, The Life and Times of Tim.