My career in 5 executions: Muhtayzik Hoffer's John Matejczyk

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From slavery calculations to irresistible spoilers, Muhtayzik Hoffer's founder turns emergency into opportunity

Name: John Matejczyk
Title: Executive Creative Director
Years in ad industry: 26 and counting
First job in ad industry: 1990, copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago

John Matejczyk began his career in Chicago, making a name for himself at Y&R. He bounced from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to Fallon and back to Goodby, working with clients like HP, Citi and Adobe.

In 2008, he founded the eponymous Muh-tay-zik, which became Muh-tay-zik | Hof-fer the next year with the addition of chief strategy officer Matt Hofherr.

Matejczyk says he thrives on emergencies—they’re "almost always good for creativity. It removes the over-think." No matter the problem, there is a solution to be found, he says. "There is always a way—a way to turn a problem upside down, a way to help a client see the way forward, and a way to help the team understand that they’re looking at a real opportunity."

Here are the 5 executions Matejczyk says have meant the most to him and his career.

Client: H&R Block
Agency: Y&R Chicago
Work: "Worried About Bill"
Year: 1999

This series of ads was a last-minute creation to replace two spots killed by lawyers. The call came in the middle of the pre-production meeting. Matejczyk and director Craig Gillespie (now known for films like "Lars and the Real Girl") stepped out of the meeting to brainstorm.

They decided to use to the same cast and location to shoot the "Bill" spots, and sold the idea after stepping back into the meeting with four of the 12 ideas that eventually ran. They wrote the other eight spots overnight.

"The Y&R managing director called, threatening to shut down the shoot," Matejczyk says. "But when we were done with them, they were sent to every Y&R office in the world with the mandate, ‘This is the new Y&R.’ It launched my partner and me into Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Craig’s career was off like a rocket."

Brand: HP "Invent"
Client: HP
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Work: "'Invent' banners"
Year: 2001

At the time, digital work wasn’t highly regarded. "It was almost entirely the world of ugly, annoying banner ads," Matejczyk says.

He had found an early physics engine that replicated gravity. Users could draw lines and drop them to see how they reacted. It was an interface Matejczyk thought would work well for HP.

"Fortunately there was an odd, young, digitally-minded art director in the room who joined up with me and figured it out," Matejczyk says—Jeff Benjamin. They developed banners that let viewers fly a paper airplane or write and play music right in the ad.

The campaign won awards at the One Show and Clios, and it sold Matejczyk (and many others) on the power and potential of digital.

Brand: Citi Credit Cards
Client: Citi
Agency: Fallon
Work: "Identity Theft"
Year: 2003-2004

Matejczyk was new at Fallon when the agency received an emergency call from Citi. The federal government had mandated identity theft recovery services on credit cards, which needed to be in place by early the next year. "The client, being geniuses at the time, said they could be in market months earlier and own the issue," Matejczyk says. From brief to production took three weeks.

The campaign became a pop culture phenomenon and was spoofed by Jeffrey Tambor during the 2004 Emmy Awards, where it won for Outstanding Commercial.

Brand: Slavery Footprint
Client: US Department of State
Agency: Muh-tay-zik | Hof-fer
Work: slaveryfootprint.org
Year: 2011

Muh-tay-zik | Hof-fer was only a few years old at this point. The agency had done some digital work for Google and iMeet, but the State Department wanted something much bigger—a 140-question survey that would calculate a user’s "Slavery Footprint."

"We said that was way too abstract of a stat and that no one would ever answer 140 questions," Matejczyk says. Instead, they reframed the issue, asking users, "How many slaves work for you?" They cut the questionnaire down to 10 items, and coded the site in the newly released HTML5.

Instead of the 250,000 users the State Department hoped to attract in the first year, they hit the goal in an hour and crashed the site. It took a little more than a month to rebuild, and the relaunch brought in a million users in its first month.

Now 26 million people have used the site, and President Obama has encouraged everyone to try it out.

Brand: Netflix Spoilers
Client: Netflix
Agency: Muh-tay-zik | Hof-fer
Work: spoilers.netflix.com
Year: 2015

Netflix commissioned a study that found a surprising result—people love spoilers. Having plot points and secrets revealed actually made people more likely to watch a show. "We decided to put the theory to the test and let people decide to randomly spoil themselves," Matejczyk says.

Originally, the site was more "about" spoilers than a repository for them. "The client killed the notion of a ‘spoil me’ button at least 5 times," Matejczyk says. "But somehow in a moment of grace, they bought it on the 6th attempt."

Hours after the site launched, it was on the front page of Reddit—twice—and viewers had watched more than a million spoilers. In a week, the site served more than 9 million spoilers, and that single "Spoil Yourself" button accounted for 95 percent of the new site’s traffic.

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