Posted 06 February 2020
Introduction by Ayla Angelos

Looking back on the past three years of The Pipe, Ogilvy’s six-month creative internship scheme

Three years have gone by since Ogilvy launched its alternative internship scheme The Pipe in London, which fast gained attention for its commitment for welcoming applicants from all walks of life. Beyond your average ad-school graduates, the programme has attracted a huge wave of applicants, with successful candidates judged simply on an ability to demonstrate their creativity, rather than their education. Not only have 42 creatives already made their way through the internship, but these ‘Pipers’ have also gone on to do some rather impressive things – from finding artist representation with renowned animation studio Blinkink, to working on global campaigns. Here, we chat to founders Johnny Watters and Angus George, as well as some of the alumni, who reflect on what it’s meant for them and share advice for anyone who’s thinking of giving it a go.

Inside the Ogilvy office

James Roberts and Ben Evenett: It all started at The Pipe

James and Ben began their advertising careers by joining The Pipes first ever cohort back in 2016 and have continued to work at Ogilvy as a creative duo ever since.

In what ways did The Pipe help you at the beginning of your career?
The Pipe introduced us to the advertising world. Before joining, I had just finished art school and Ben was packing socks. It kick-started our careers and we’ll always look back on it fondly. Luckily, our cohort was an experiment - as in nothing was wrong or right, so we had the freedom to find our own feet. Without The Pipe and the backing of some people here, we’d both be in very different places.

Any advice for those wanting to apply for The Pipe or something similar?
The Pipe is special and different. The only criteria to apply was that you had to be creative in some way. When it looked like some of us were becoming too “advertisy” during The Pipe, we were encouraged to be ourselves. It’s also worth noting that creative directors will have seen bazillions of portfolios – anything that isn’t a usual campaign with print and a TV script will be music to their ears.

“The Pipe is special and different. The only criteria for entry was that you had to be creative in some way.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received since starting out?
One of the best things about advertising is the people you’ll meet. Our office is full of weird and wonderful people from all over the world; it’s such a diverse office. So I guess the best piece of advice is to ask for advice. Oh and networking is lame, just make friends.

A still from James’ music video for Stephen Malkmus

James Papper: One opportunity led to another

Having completed the six-month internship at The Pipe, James was introduced to animation studio Blinkink, which now represents him as an illustrator, animator and filmmaker.

In what ways did The Pipe help you at the beginning of your career?
It was nice because the people who set it up, Angus, Johnny and Rachael – all believed in me and showed great support, even when I was a difficult little sod. They also hooked us up with interesting people and we got to go to cool places, listen to talks and they actually introduced me to Blinkink, which is where I’m lucky enough to be now.

What advice would you give to others wanting to apply for The Pipe or something similar?
Prioritise your mental health over work. That’s not specific to my experience at The Pipe, but from working in the creative industry. London’s general attitude to work is unhealthy and everything goes at a million miles an hour. It’s just advertising, make sure you’re happy and don’t work ridiculous hours to help someone sell fizzy drinks or phone tariffs.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received since starting out?
“Nobody cares about your creative integrity, just make something.”

Joanna copywriter lecture in progress autocompressfitresizeixlibphp 1 1 0max h2000max w3 D2000q80s5f55acb78972c747cc70f3a6338e3a3e

Joe and Joanna’s Work for Ogilvy

Screenshot 2020 01 16 at 14 47 54 autocompressfitresizeixlibphp 1 1 0max h2000max w3 D2000q80sfe67326238848bcf1918dd258fc7278b

Joe and Joanna's Work for Ogilvy

Screenshot 2020 01 16 at 14 48 15 autocompressfitresizeixlibphp 1 1 0max h2000max w3 D2000q80s780c53a75a0f00e7998eae64c83402bb

Joe and Joanna's Work for Ogilvy

Joe Paul and Joanna Osborne: Make the choice that’s right for you

Creative duo Jo and Joanna completed The Pipe together and moved onto working at Wieden + Kennedy as a creative team. Joe is the art director and Joanna takes on the writing side of things.

In what ways did The Pipe help you at the beginning of your career?
Joseph: Well, I didn’t go to ad school. I came straight out of a media and film degree and into advertising through The Pipe. I had absolutely no clue about the industry – I remember the first time I heard the word ‘deck’. Everything felt so new. So, The Pipe was my training ground. It was a chance to really run at stuff head on, work on big briefs and pitches, as well as embrace failure. I’m not sure I’d be at the point I’m at without that six months of craziness.

Joanna: It honours what makes you different instead of trying to squash you into a typical ad-student-shaped creative. So you spend more time getting better at what you enjoy and are actually good at, whether it’s writing, illustrating or songwriting, and less time panicking about what you’re potentially quite crap at. Not every advertising team has to be able to come up with 50 PR-worthy ideas in an hour. More than one type of creativity is valid. Sometimes it’s good to be a bit niche.

“I’m not sure I’d be at the point I’m at in my career without that half a year of craziness on The Pipe.”

Based on your experience, what would be your advice to others wanting to apply for The Pipe or something similar?
Joseph: Go for it – but figure out why first. What is it that excites you? What’s the agency that runs it like? Is it somewhere that will allow you to bring a host of things to the table?Saying that, sometimes it’s just essential to get your foot in the door.

Joanna: Be yourself. Don’t try to shape your application based on what you think they want to hear or see. Force the application to fit with what you want to showcase about yourself.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received since starting out?
Joseph: Loosen up.

Joanna: When you get downtime, don’t stress about it or try to find something visibly useful to do for fear of not looking committed enough. Take the downtime. This industry will steal it back later down the line. Guaranteed.

Pipers from 2019’s cohort inside the Ogilvy office

Johnny Watters: It’s important to be yourself

Johnny is global group creative director at Ogilvy, where he’s worked for over six years. Together with fellow Ogilvy team member Angus George, he founded The Pipe in 2016.

Since launching The Pipe three years ago, have there been any big learnings?
The biggest learning would have to be to keep evolving the programme. Every year is different, as is the mix of people – in terms of their skills and the reasons we choose the people we choose. For example, in the first year we had a mix of advertising students alongside people who’d never even considered advertising as a career. In the second year, we had a majority of non-ad school people, so we had to do a lot more teaching in terms of how to structure their ideas.

We’ve also made a conscious decision to separate The Pipe programme from our placement scheme. Focusing The Pipe on non-traditional people who haven’t come from ad schools. We still take placements from ad school, they just don’t come on to The Pipe.

“We want people who will utterly challenge our perceptions of what advertising and marketing can be.”

What should applicants keep in mind when applying and can make them stand out?
It’s a cliché, but be yourself. Don’t try and position yourself as what you think an ad agency is looking for. We want people who will utterly challenge our perceptions of what advertising and marketing can be. The single most important thing we’re looking for is diversity of thought; it’s the core reason the programme exists. So if you try and think like the people we already have in the building, then that’s not interesting to us. Also, don’t send us ads. There are thousands of people spending years at university learning how to write ads. If you send us an advert, we compare you to them, and you will probably lose.

Another cliché: it’s all about ideas. Great craft and execution are table stakes. But the main thing we want to see is a mind-blowing creative way of solving a problem, or sending a message, or changing a behaviour or reshaping a business.

Lastly, keep it simple. Ideas are becoming increasingly more complex, and when we’re looking through thousands of entries, we need to be able to quickly understand the core concept. So if you’re sending us something which is complex, distil it for us at the start. How would you explain it in a tweet, or in 30 seconds?


Find out more about The Pipe here, and how to apply here.

Ogilvy is a Lecture in Progress agency partner. Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for students. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Introduction by Ayla Angelos