very year, towards the end of the New York Fashion Week, there is an intimate party of around 300 invited guests, far from the prying eyes of the press or their photographers where fashion insiders and international superstars let their hair down. The party is in the trendy neighbourhood of Bowery, overlooking the Manhattan skyline – at Thomas Hayo’s home. The party which always goes until the early morning hours and is THE social event of the Fashion Week and has included guests such as Madonna.
Who is this German, who works and plays amongst the who’s-who of the international fashion and Hollywood scene? In Germany, Hayo entered the public eye in 2011 as member of the jury for “Germany’s next Topmodel by Heidi Klum” and has since become after Heidi, the longest running juror in the format’s 9 year history. He humbly considers this his side job, being an award winning Creative Director for numerous international advertising campaigns, when not on location in Los Angeles or around the world for “Germany’s next Topmodel by Heidi Klum”.
The life that Hayo lives today, between stars, shows, and models started from not particularly glamorous beginnings. Born in 1969 in Bexbach, Saarland in the south west of Germany close to bordering France, Hayo loved football and played tennis. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA in his ‘Abitur’ from Hombuger Joahnneum and went on to study Visual Communication, at the prestigious “Hochschule für Gestaltung” in Darmstadt. A passionate student with hunger for experience he worked during his studies at top German agencies such as Springer & Jacoby in Hamburg.
In 1993, Hayo moved to New York City after accepting an internship at J. Walter Thompson. He instantly fell in love with the city and after just two months was offered full-time employment – Hayo had arrived home. During the day, he managed accounts such as Kodak, Pepsi, DeBeers and Kellog’s and at night worked on his dissertation. His work raised the company’s already innovative profile and he was quickly promoted to Creative Director and soon after that, became one of the youngest partners in the agency’s history.
Hayo left JWT and joined English firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 1999 to help establish the newcomer in the New York advertising landscape. He managed clients such as Levis, Reebok, Sony and Johnnie Walker and helped grow the company from 20 to 200 employees in just 8 years! His creative marketing campaigns have been honoured by the Art Directors Club, a Clio Award and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
When asked, of which accomplishment he was particularly proud, it was not the awards or the campaigns which tried to sell something – instead, ones which moved and enlightened emotionally. A particular campaign dealt with substance abuse, specifically Heroin which at the time was considered a designer drug in NYC. Hayo partnered with a copywriter working restlessly on the self-financed, TV and print campaign which worked to demystify the drug. The campaign was quickly and enthusiastically adopted by the “Drug Free America” organisation and even led to Hayo receiving a personal letter from President Bill Clinton, thanking him for his contributions on the war against drugs. Soon after, he was approved for the US Green Card which would allow him to stay in his adopted home indefinitely.
“I was having lunch with close friend and former Springer and Jacoby colleague, Jean Remy von Matt (Founder of the now legendary Jung von Matt Ad Agency in Hamburg) who received a call from Oliver Wirtz, who asked him if he knew a Creative Director who would be suitable as a juror for the show: ‘Germany’s next Topmodel by Heidi Klum’… “. “Jean Remy looked at me and replied “He’s actually sitting across from me”.
Following a pit-stop in Bexbach, Hayo is back in New York City in the summer of 2008 and decides to work as an independent Creative Director. It was not an absence of exciting agency offers that drove the decision, instead the change in priorities which had become evident to him during his time in Asia. The only difference, he says is that he gets to work for people instead of companies. People like Justin Timberlake and his fashion line “William Rast”, Robert Redford and his “Sundance Film Festival” and artists such as David Fincher, Richard Avedon, Nick Knight, and Philip Glass. As it happens some of Hayo’s best campaigns can be seen in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
So how does the German/New Yorker and Creative Director end up at Heidi Klum’s side as co-juror on one of Germany’s most successful casting shows in 2011? Hayo tells the story: “I was having lunch with close friend and former Springer and Jacoby colleague, Jean Remy von Matt (Founder of the now legendary Jung von Matt Ad Agency in Hamburg) who received a call from Oliver Wirtz, who asked him if he knew a Creative Director who would be suitable as a juror for the show: ‘Germany’s next Topmodel by Heidi Klum’… “. “Jean Remy looked at me and replied “He’s actually sitting across from me”. “Even though I was initially sceptical, I met with Heidi who I had already known for a couple of years but not seen in a long time.” Hayo began considering the notion, important to him was that he would be able to work in an environment where he could speak and act freely and once he had been assured of this by ProSieben, he quickly signed on the dotted line. He adds: “I have never regretted this decision and enjoy the atmosphere of the team and am happy to be able to pass my professional and personal experiences on to the contestants.”
Hayo has just completed the 10th season of “Germany’s next Topmodel by Heidi Klum”. The fans love and respect him and the team in front and behind the camera. He is described as kind, relaxed and down to earth.
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