Diversity in adland: why Ogilvy is taking a creative approach to new hires
Global advertising agency Ogilvy launched an apprenticeship scheme in 2016 that aims to celebrate and champion diversity, and provide more employment routes into the creative industries.
Open to all, regardless of background or qualifications, The Pipe is a two-year programme based in Ogilvy’s London headquarters. Apprentices who are taken on – known internally as Pipers – gain experience in a range of specialities, including advertising and customer engagement, design, social, PR and behaviour change. They work on client briefs while also studying towards a level 3 qualification, which is equivalent to two A-Levels.
The scheme has seen Ogilvy welcome poets, skaters, sculptors, jewellery designers, shelf stackers, artists and DJs through its doors. Key to its message is appealing to those who think the creative industries are difficult to get into unless you know someone on the inside or have certain qualifications.
“We launched The Pipe in 2016 very purposefully to open up the creative craft to a more diverse pool of potential emerging talent, and many of our Pipers are now fully fledged creatives in a number of different roles within the agency,” says Helen Matthews, chief people officer at Ogilvy UK.
“Our aim has always been for at least 50% of our intake to be from underrepresented backgrounds, and we’ve been working closely this year with Uptree and Brixton Finishing School to ensure we cast our net as widely as possible.”
The Pipe was the route to a creative career for Natalie Narh, now a social content creative with Ogilvy and vice-chair of Ogilvy Roots, a network set up to champion greater ethnic and cultural diversity within the agency. Narh is from Ghana and was motivated to apply to the Ogilvy scheme when she graduated in 2018, after her father mentioned that David Ogilvy didn’t embark on a creative career until his 30s.
“My time on The Pipe didn’t just confirm that I wanted to work in the advertising and marketing world, it actually helped me to define who I am as a creative,” she says.
Narh works full-time for Ogilvy and has a clear sense of where she sees her career going. “Previously if someone asked where I wanted to be in a few years’ time I’d have given an answer focused on improving myself as a creative and my actual craft, but over the past year, I have realised that my purpose is more aligned with giving other people the opportunity to be creative,” she says.
“Although I enjoy the process of creating, empowering other people to do the same is very satisfying to me. I hope to be able to impact a wide range of people to execute their own ideas as creatives.”
To help lower the barriers to entry, Ogilvy passes some of the apprenticeship levy back to The Pipe apprentices. “In effect, we’re giving them a startup bonus so they can pay a month’s rent or cover travel costs, making the apprenticeship scheme as inclusive as possible and setting participants up for success,” says Matthews.
“Natalie is a brilliant example of a young apprentice who has made her own luck and success, grabbing every opportunity she can,” she adds. “Especially at time when so many opportunities for young people have closed or been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to combat the misconception that the creative industries are closed unless you know someone on the inside, and vital at a societal level to ensure that creative industry apprenticeship schemes continue.”
You can read the full article on The Guardian here.