Ogilvy’s Jules Chalkley talks about his life, career and favourite ads
Top Ogilvy ECD Jules Chalkley discusses the ads he’s made – and the ads that made him.
Ogilvy UK’s chief executive creative director Jules Chalkley / Ogilvy
Jules Chalkley is chief executive creative director at Ogilvy UK. With over two decades in the business, he has worked on major campaigns for the likes of Ikea, M&S and Virgin Atlantic, winning him countless awards.
“The one thing I was good at when I was a youngster was art, terrible at all my other subjects. In fact, so much so I don’t have any A levels,” he admits. “I’ve never told anyone outside of my family that before.”
As a youngster, Chalkley had always been drawn to advertising “primarily because it made me laugh,” he says. “I used to watch a lot of telly as a kid, much to my mum’s annoyance.”
Before the dreaded results, or lack of, arrived the creative director was accepted onto a foundation art course that allowed him to explore painting, drawing, very early digital design and filmmaking. After that year ended, and knowing that it was definitely the route he wanted to pursue, he began looking for a college to go, but due to the lack of grades it was difficult.
“I tried loads of colleges all over the UK, but because I had no A levels, I couldn’t get into them, I couldn't do a degree,” he explains. “I ended up going to Hounslow, which was a really good ad school at the time, and they just accepted me on my ideas pages.”
At the time, Hounslow had good relationships with various ad agencies and Chalkley would go around them in the evenings putting his portfolio together through placements. At Saatchi&Saatchi he worked “on some amazing accounts and talked to incredible people like Alexandra Taylor”, who is still one of his art director heroes.
As well as Taylor, Chalkley adds that at the beginning of his career he was “looking at Castlemaine XXXX ads that were just extremely entertaining and very funny, laugh out loud funny” and cites the “extraordinary” Dunlop’s ‘Tested for the Unexpected’ campaign as another source of inspiration.
Back then Chalkley notes that there was, and still is, an “openness to the industry” that he so appreciates because otherwise he would have been “absolutely fucked.”
Of course, formal education isn’t always suitable or achievable for people. How important is university learning when it comes to creative work?
“The nature of art school is changing,” confirms Chalkley. “I went into the industry not really knowing anything about the money side of it, I just wanted to work in it. And money has become such a big deal in education.” Noting that he didn’t pay for his tuition and that it was “brilliantly” funded by the UK government, he acknowledges that everything “comes with a price tag now” and that “colleges are expensive“ but they don’t need to be the only option.
“Agencies and the creative companies need to start leaning into that themselves and offering more apprenticeships,” he advises. “Training people up from scratch and bringing them into the industry on merit and ability but not on the fact that you've got an HND in advertising.” He continues: “Since Michael Gove pushed the country more towards more STEM subjects and away from creative, as an industry, we’re paying for it.”
Throughout his years within the ad industry, Chalkley has worked at various agencies like St Luke’s, Engine and BMB London, where he was its first chief creative officer. “Getting into a good agency wasn’t easy,” he adds. “I spent a long time going around London with a portfolio trying to find a good partner – it took a year.”
While at Engine, Chalkley worked on a campaign for the NHS called ’Missing Type’ that he credits as being one of his favourites. “I don't think it’s my best piece of work, actually,” he confesses. “But for me it identified the work I wanted to do and the way I wanted to work. That sort of multi-platform, culturally driven, very simple, pervasive idea.”
Another favourite is Ikea’s ‘Glasgow’s Gone Soft’ project from his time at St Luke’s. Both share that talkability, disruptive factor that Chalkley states is where he’s “happiest creatively.“
With so much experience behind him, what advice would Chalkley offer young people trying to break into the advertising world? “Energy,” he states. “It’s the one thing that has always worked for me, just having the energy and enthusiasm. If you’ve got the will to succeed, you will.”
He continues by stating that the industry thrives on brilliant ideas and having people who show tenacity, but that “being able to pick yourself up from when they don‘t go right, and things go wrong” is equally as important. “Even now when I’m waiting to hear on a pitch, I‘m like, ‘oh God, please let it be good’,” he confides.
“It‘s an emotional game, isn‘t it? It‘s about connecting with people and making them feel things. All the time you‘re expressing in that sense, you‘re vulnerable, so you need to keep the passion.”