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10 Questions with… Jamie Matthews

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The Drum Network presents 10 questions with Jamie Matthews

As part of The Drum Network's mission to share our members' expertise with the wider world, we're happy to present the latest in a series of our '10 questions with...' series, this time featuring insights from Jamie Matthews, CEO of Initials:

What was your first ever job?

I was 16, selling radio controlled cars and bikes, in a toy shop called Toy Town. It taught me how to sell and how to get on with people from all walks of life, as you never knew who might walk through the doors next.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

Any words that appear on bullshit bingo. Think ‘singing from the same song sheet’, ‘reconceptualising’, ‘agile’ and so on…There are so many words that are used and abused, you can end up unclear on what they even mean.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

Mark Ronson and Dave Trott. Tim Williams too, he’s brilliant. He wrote the book Positioning for Professionals. He’s all about redefining the agency model, how you charge and demonstrate value. His approach is such a breath of fresh air in our industry.

Beyond our sector, it’s important to get a wide and varied external perspective too. On that side of things Alain de Botton is fascinating. He has a new book coming out all about the workplace.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

We’ve just revised our ‘About us’ deck. Part of it maps our agency journey from 2006 to 2020. It’s only when you look back and pick out all the landmark campaigns and certain key points in agency life that you realise everything you’ve actually achieved. We’re all so busy living in the now that we forget to look back.

What piece of tech can you not live without?

My most functional one is Keeper, an app on my phone, desktop, everywhere basically. It’s got all my passwords, so I’d be screwed without it.

I also love my Rocketbook, a smart notebook I can programme to email pages to myself or save them directly onto our server.

Any apps within our phones are key, as that’s what we all actually engage with. I’m currently quite addicted to Fitbit and am loving my Peloton bike functionality, it’s really good fun.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

This is going to show my age, but anything found in an Athena shop. If you’re under 35 this was an iconic UK wide poster shop.

In marketing, what needs to change soon?

For me, it’s those sector-specific publications that are still quite traditional in their approach. I’d love them to catch up with the way clients are procuring agencies now as the approach of some titles is still so outdated. Industry publications need to reflect their industries better.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?

It changes. You can look at something and think what a brilliant film, but you can watch it again 10 years later and it’s just not the same. That being said, some do stand the test of time, but others really don’t.

One that passed this test for me Untouchable, a French film set in Paris, about a paraplegic man who employs a street smart immigrant to take care of him. It’s such a funny yet brilliantly clever film.

My favourite music today is Michael Kiwanuka, or something more classical. And the book I’d recommend would probably be The Alchemist, bit predictable but I can return to it every couple of years and it’s still brilliant.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?

There are so many industry events, it’s hard to know where to start. And they can be guilty of too much navel gazing. Awards are also a challenge with the amount that keep popping up, alongside clients not valuing them as much.

It’s also really hard to absorb work at these events, you don’t have the opportunity to see, experience or actually feel it, so I find myself going to less award nights and more commercial things these days. For example, the Business Barometer roundtable by JFDI and The Drum, events at Moore Kingston Smith, I’m also part of The Supper Club. The Supper Club’s summer and Christmas dos are always fun. I love meeting new entrepreneurs, their trailblazing is inspirational.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

My old boss Mike Spicer, who is sadly no longer with us, sat me down once when I was going through a challenging time at Arc. He said your career is made up of peaks and troughs, as you get more experienced the challenge is to use it to even things out. The peaks won’t be higher, but troughs become less deep. Knowing Mike, he probably nicked it from somewhere! But it’s useful advice and I remember it to this day. Hats off to Mike.

Jamie Matthews, CEO at Initials.

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