2 Nov

Trevor Robinson OBE interview: advice for minorities entering the world of advertising

Throughout Black History month, we celebrated important black figures from both past and present who have shaped or are shaping history. This week we spoke to one of the most influential people in ad land, and an activist against racial injustice – Trevor Robinson OBE – Founder of London based advertising agency Quiet Storm.  

Trevor hopes to bring about real change with regards to diversity in advertising and has been successfully doing great work to tackle issues of inequality and racial bias via the Create Not Hate campaign, founded in 2007. 

Create Not Hate has become somewhat of a movement in its own right, helping young people with backgrounds similar to Trevor’s, unleash their creative potential. It also successfully addresses the social issues underrepresented and minority groups live day to day.  

Trevor was awarded his OBE in 2009 for his services to UK advertising, not only through Quiet Storms huge contributions but, for his impressive and impactful mentorship program which ultimately creates a gateway for minority creatives that currently account for just 11% of the industry.  

In this interview, Trevor gives us an insight into the driving force behind launching Create Not Hate, his inspiration for joining the world of advertising and his advice to anyone from a minority background entering the industry.  

You launched Create Not Hate in 2007, was there a catalyst for this or was it something you always saw yourself doing? 

Both. The main catalyst was that I’ve always wanted to give back to the industry. Very early on in my career I often thought about all the creative talent that I grew up with, who never had the fortune to get into this industry. Such a waste! I’ve had a brilliant and very rewarding time and I always felt a bit guilty that a lot of people who I thought were more talented than me haven’t ended up in this space.                              

Around the same time I was thinking about doing this, my old school was on TV because a young boy was stabbed to death. I wanted to find a subject matter that the kids would feel. I also remember seeing posters about knife crime and thinking ‘they won’t work’, ‘they don’t talk to the audience they’re aimed at’. They were so out of touch with the reality of the people they were seeking to engage. So why not make the kids who lived in such close proximity to, and were affected by this issue, crack the brief? 

What inspired you to go into advertising, did you have a favorite campaign growing up?  

I didn’t really want to go into advertising. I was keen on being an animator or a fashion designer. Or even designing comics. But I got myself into so much debt trying to pay for college fees and portfolios I had to pay it off somehow! An opportunity came up at an agency where I met Al Young, who was my creative partner. The rest is history. 

With regards to my favourite campaign, I have lots of favourites! The Guardian’s ‘Skinhead’ ad, and all the Heineken ads are particular favourites.  

What is your favorite piece of work Quiet Storm has produced?  

In terms of commercial work, it would have to be our the Haribo Kids’ voices ads. One of the most powerful cause related projects we’ve worked on was the Helen Bamber installation, a campaign that shone a light on the horror of the sex trafficking industry. 

Create Not Hate has produced some incredible work like ‘A Mother’s Tear’ and ‘Check Your Prejudice’ campaign, what does the future have in store? 

We’ve recently partnered with John Lewis and are working together on a really exciting brief with a group of incredible young people. So far, we’ve held four workshops. The young people involved have come up with some truly inspiring ideas so I cannot wait to see what we create. In the summer we also did a brilliant campaign around Black male mental health with Shout 85258, a free and confidential text line.  

What would be your advice for anyone from a minority background entering the industry? 

Surviving in advertising is hard. It’s hard to get in and it’s hard to stay in. It’s not all planes and Porsches! I’d say prepare for a rewarding and exciting career but at the same time be mindful that you will face challenges. You need to be flexible and patient at times. But the tides are turning and I feel hopeful and excited for the new generation of diverse talent that’s entering the industry.   

Thank you to Trevor and his team for taking the time to answer our questions. You can view all of Trevor’s agency – Quiet Storm – work here, donate to Create Not Hate here, and see the current work they’re doing to reform Stop and Search, and sign the petition.  

Ingenuity will be donating to Create Not Hate to offer our support and stand with them as they continue their fantastic and imperative work within the advertising industry and beyond.