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Dream Teams: Katy Hulton and Elly Pipiciello's Fierce Female Partnership

Creative Agency
Sydney, Australia
The Howatson+Company duo spoke to LBB’s Delmar Terblanche on their friendship, their creative process, and the mysterious chemistry that makes them such a strong team

The first time Katy and Elly met for a cup of coffee, neither intended to stay out for longer than 45 minutes. They hung out for three hours.

The duo’s friendship became a trademark in all their workplaces - from The Works to Howatson+Company. “We’re joined at the hip,” Katy says. “I can’t ïmagine doing this job with anyone else.”

Elly is even blunter. “Being in the industry is really great,” she says, “but it is a big mental toll. The creative process is pretty all-consuming. I think we really need the support we give each other, 24 hours a day. This partnership - this friendship - for me, it’s crucial.”

On every level, the two make sense as a partnership. The team of copywriter (Katy) and designer (Elly) is an age old one in the creative industries, and for good reason. But these two hardworking young women are more than just a compatible set of words and visuals. They’re a fully-fledged creative symbiote. They both grew up in Sydney’s Northern Beaches (Katy in Newport, Elly in Manly) and have an enduring love for the laid-back, sun-baked culture of their hometown. They both speak with an intelligent, easy frankness; they both combine a relaxed, winning smile with serious, determined eyes; and they both sport beach blonde hair. They could be sisters. Instead, they’re professional partners, best friends, and a crucial point of support for the other.

Katy Hulton and Elly Pipiciello were classmates in AWARD school, and both made it into the top ten for their year, but, thanks to Covid, never actually met.

“So much of that course is built around the mentorship and the relationships that you build with your tutors, and having to do that online…” Katy lets the sentence hang. The meaning is clear enough. “Plus the fact that you want to come out of that course, essentially, with connections - not just within the industry, but within your peers.”

It was Elly’s, as she puts it, “borderline-creepy” behaviour that finally got them talking. “In this industry, you essentially need to find a partner to get a job in the real world. So I decided to literally treat it like dating and just chase people. And with Katy - well, we were both lucky enough to make it into the top ten, and it was me seeing her headshot that made me think ‘this could work.’ She looked like the most lovely, down-to-earth person, and I just knew: she’s my partner.”

Obsessive Linkedin messages followed, and eventually the pair met up for that coffee date. The rest is history.

“I know, quite often, they say that opposites attract,” Katy reflects, “but Elly and I are the same human. We’re wired the same way. For instance, we’re both quite highly strung, but somehow we almost manage to coordinate - if Elly’s stressed,  then I'm cool as a cucumber, and vice versa. It’s a weird phenomenon.”

Their work process involves a great deal of this tag-teaming and constant collaboration. It’s never a clear cut case of one writer and one designer - there’s always a crossover. “Sometimes Elly will come up with the most cracking line,” remarks Katy, “and other times I will just nail the visual reference.”

They have their road bumps, of course, such as Katy’s obsessive need to write to music. “I’ll find the right track, and it really brings the emotion I want to capture through.” This often leaves Elly begging her partner to not play the Black Eyed Peas mid presentation, but they work it through.

And the pair has produced great work. In 2021, when they were still at The Works, Katy and Elly responded to a call by Marie Claire for works about consent. They submitted this:

“It was around the time of a lot of the sexual harassment scandals at Sydney private schools,” Katy explains. “We had a lot of creative freedom on it, but, beyond that, it’s an issue that was really important to the both of us. We had the chance to create something really significant, and in ways we normally wouldn’t be able to. Like I was able to really experiment with longer-form copy.”

“And we were handwriting everything to make it feel raw, real, and purposefully not like an ad”, offers Elly. “So we're in the office late at night, handwriting, using the copier, using pens, markers, scanners, scribbles - all these elements to make the thing feel human and unpolished.”

“We did a lot of really intense research,” Katy adds. “I think I cried about 10 times. The thing about Google autocomplete is that it is, really, such a reflection of society's deep, dark secrets. So it was a really interesting way to show that prevalence of attitude, and break down the fact that we need to be educating in a different way. If young boys are turning to Google to ask what to do if she says no, then we've almost failed.”

This is the type of work which truly motivates Katy and Elly; the reason they joined the industry to begin with. “As much as we love the world of advertising,” Katy explains, “we want to make stuff that actually adds value to people's lives.” 

Elly concurs. “We’ve both got ad boundaries. There is a spectrum of stuff we want to do, and stuff we don’t want. And we both understand that.”

Katy and Elly have been at Howatson for three months now, and in that time their partnership has gone from strength to strength. They love what Katy calls the agency's "startup energy", and the way that excellence seems to come from all corners.  There's a vibe of collective effport about the place - something that encourages the best in every small interaction or exchange. And for Katy and Elly, who have long drawn their professional energy from an interpersonal drive, that's a perfect fit. They’re good coworkers. They’re good creatives. And, above all, they’re good friends. That last point, I suspect, is the key to their success.

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