Trevor Robinson OBE, is a Creative Director and owner of advertising agency Quiet Storm and founder of CreateNotHate, an initiative to promote the creative industries as a career path to inner city kids.
As a kid, I was always drawing, always making stuff. I’d be in the cellar turning an old pram into a chariot or sketching my mum’s hairdressing clients at home. By 13, I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was limited to what I could see, so I thought maybe an illustrator or a fashion designer. I went to art college and when I graduated, I went for two jobs and got the one I least wanted in a below the line agency in Richmond doing graphics for medical stuff like pile creams. But it opened my eyes to the wider industry. I used to work on my portfolio at night so that I’d have what it took to get a job in a west end ad agency. Me and two others, a street kid called Tom and a big Irish guy called Walt, – we’d meet at Dorlands and work on our stuff together at night. We were called the ‘Oiks’ of advertising because we weren’t the typical Oxbridge types. It worked and I got hired with Al, my creative partner. I barely used to speak back then. I left that to Al, but he was Scottish with a crippling stammer, so one day he said, ‘Trev, these are your ideas, you are going to have to speak up’. I was the only black person in my agency. There was only one other black creative working in London – he did a brilliant ad for Speedo and then left for the US. I didn’t have any role models, just the work. I was inspired by iconic ads like Carling Black Label, Hamlet cigars, Guinness. And I’m sure I felt their inspiration when we came up with ‘You’ve been Tangoed’.
If you are only drawing from one source it’s not good for diversity of thought as there is a limited pool of talent and ideas. When we are casting ads, we have to insist that we don’t want to see the same old faces. A lot of the pressure on advertising to change the stereotypes has come from the public. Consumers complained, clients listened.
In terms of advertising’s own diversity issues, the industry doesn’t realise what it’s lacking. Only once you get a sense of what else is out there do you feel the loss. I started CreateNotHate originally in 2007 when a kid from my old school was stabbed. I wanted to show these kids the creative industries could be for them to give them an alternative to gangs, to prove they could make money in another way. We got them to make an ad to stop kids carrying knives – I learned so much from them. These young people are the future of our industry and they are the ones that will refresh and rejuvenate it, if we don’t utilise them and start connecting with people from every background, we’re in danger of it becoming stagnant.