At the age of 11, Trevor Robinson’s school careers advisor told him that he’d have more chance of being a bus driver than working in advertising. Despite the early obstacles he faced getting into the industry, he has managed to forge a hugely successful career for himself over the last three decades. In 1995 he founded Quiet Storm, one of the first agencies to write, direct and produce its own work – a model which it still uses today, and has seen it create award-winning work including You’ve Been Tango-ed and Haribo’s Kids Voices campaign.
Robinson is also well known for his personal contribution to the ad world, namely for helping to tackle its diversity problem. He has previously chaired the IPA’s Ethnic Diversity Forum, set up an initiative called Create Not Hate to tackle gun crime by getting disadvantaged young people to make their own ads, and in 2009 was awarded an OBE for his services to charity and advertising.
With the majority of shoots unable to take place as originally planned, the lockdown period has been particularly challenging for the production arm of Quiet Storm. Alongside working on lockdown ads for clients such as cleaning brand Zoflora, Robinson has been using the last few months as an opportunity to drum up industry support for the relaunch of Create Not Hate. Here, he discusses the need for advertising to finally take action on its diversity problem, how it can shake up the controversial industry awards format, and why a move to WFH risks killing off the all-important work culture that is the lifeblood of the industry.
Adapting to the new normal On a personal level, I’m an advertising creative, not an artist creative where you are happy to sit in a warehouse by yourself, paint for six months and then unveil your work of art. I love being around people, I get a real energy from people. Even with my clients I hate the Zoom thing; you can’t read people, you can’t read body language, it just feels very dehumanising, even to know when to speak and when not to speak, and how you draw people into the conversation. Maybe I’m a bit long in my tooth to be working this way. Even though I’ve got an office at the agency I like to be around people, I like the routine of getting on my bike and going somewhere, and at lunchtime going for a walk and going to museums. I love that interaction with life, but we’ve still been able to function, and I’ve still been able to be a creative director and deal with clients in this way.