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That's right, 30. Thanks. No, we don't think we look it either, but I suppose we would say that.

Thirty years ago, back in 1990, shots was born with the aim of showcasing the most creative work from across the global advertising industry and, by extension, the most creative companies and people behind that work. To celebrate 30 years of that mission, over the coming months we'll be publishing a series of interviews with a difference.

We've asked some of the creative leaders we most admire to choose someone they think is likely to be an influential figure in the industry's future. They then interview, and in return are also interviewed by, that person. It can be someone they know, someone they've worked with, someone who's work they've admired from afar... it doesn't matter. We then gave them five questions each to ask and answer in return.

Over the course of this feature we'll be hearing from luminaries such as Furlined's Diane McArter, Factory's Anthony Moore, Final Cut's Joe Guest and a tonne more. But starting us off is the Executive Creative Director of London-based agency and production company Quiet Storm, Trevor Robinson OBE. Robinson is a creative and director behind some of the UK's best work, most famously the Tango campaigns from the 90s. He talks to fellow Quiet Stormer Seb Jamous about not just 'banging on about Tango' [Oh. Sorry.], why he wouldn't want to work for a big agency network and whether the industry has got too serious.

Above: Seb Jamous, left, and Trevor Robinson in an image art directed by Jamous.


SJ: So, kicking off, Trevor, you’ve been in the business a long time, but you keep moving forward, you’re not still banging on about Tango. Is it ever a temptation to live off your past glories?

TR: No, not really, I’m not one to dwell on the past and I think you should always be trying to move forward with new ideas, and after all, new ideas are what’s exciting. But I do think it’s important to remember you’re only as good as your last piece of work. Everything you’ve done in the past helps you to move forward and I’d never refuse to acknowledge the past, if someone likes what I’ve created previously then that’s a great thing that I’d happily welcome and embrace. 

So, my first question to you, Seb; you moved into advertising from design, why did you choose to do that and do you still think you made the right choice? And how come you chose Quiet Storm?

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Tango – Bosses Office

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Tango – Caught Out

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Tango – Tango: Orange Man

Above: Robinson's early work for Tango; Bosses Office and Caught Out, for which he was creative and director, and Slap, for which he was a creative.


SJ: I moved into advertising because it felt like the right call for my personality. Designers are obsessive and detail driven. I’ve got a bit of a shit attention span, so spending weeks staring at the same thing can wear me down. The thing I love about being an art director is being able to approach a project as a wider picture, which makes my schedule a lot more diverse. No two days are the same. I might be writing scripts one day and directing a shoot the next. It’s a lot of fun. 

I’ve got a bit of a shit attention span, so spending weeks staring at the same thing can wear me down.

I also still do the occasional bits of design so it’s sort of the best of both worlds. After our interview at Quiet Storm, Harry [Iddon] and I knew it was the right call. The culture, the people and the work felt like the right fit for our personalities. It’s a really good place to be. No regrets. 

Next question: Ever fancied going to work in a big network agency?

TR: The only time I’ve ever fancied it was when you used to hear about big places like BBH taking everyone out to Miami to party for a week. I could get on board with that. I wouldn’t be able to stand the politics of a big network agency and the personalities that sometimes come with that. When a business is a huge machine those characteristics are inevitable. 

I wouldn’t be able to stand the politics of a big network agency.

I’ve worked in small agencies that have grown, and you start to see the greed creep in quite quickly. You start to realise that everyone’s objectives now differ from your own. What I love about Quiet Storm is everyone is fighting for the same thing, and it makes us quite a potent weapon when it comes to pitches and creating new work. There’s absolutely no room to hide in a small, independent business of 30 people, so what happens is, you end up with only people who are bloody brilliant at what they do. Because if they aren’t, it shows pretty rapidly. Whereas, in a large network environment there are so many layers and much more room for people who maybe aren’t as brilliant, or aren’t on the same page as everyone else. 

It sounds really cliché but Quiet Storm is most definitely a family, everyone genuinely cares about each other and I think that can only come from having such close contact with everyone in the business. 

Next question to you: You’ve been doing some directing recently, for some of our biggest clients. Would you like to do that full time or are you happy to be an agency art director too? Is it true your generation is happy to move through careers and can’t imagine doing one thing for too long? 

Haribo – Police

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Above: Jamous's recent directing work for Haribo. 


SJ: Well, this feels like a loaded question if ever there was one... I do love my current role, but shooting is about as much fun as you can have. I love the pre-production, working with the crew and the shoot day itself. It’s great. I do get a lot out of art directing, though, and I know how saturated the industry is with directors already. We’ll see. Whilst I’m probably not qualified to talk on behalf of an entire generation, on a personal level, I do think keeping your feet moving is a good thing. 

Return to sender: You’ve created some of the most iconic work of all time. Do you recognise your influence on creativity and if so, where do you see it now?

I do get a lot out of art directing, and I know how saturated the industry is with directors.

TR: Christ. Horrible question. Thanks, Seb. It's very nice of you to say so, but I don’t really know how anyone could feel like that about themselves. And at the end of the day we just make ads, we’re not scientists trying to crack a vaccine for Covid-19. What I have done is always try to create advertising that entertains people. 

I believe that if you entertain people, you can engage them.

People enjoy ad’s when they’re good, but equally, people hate them as well. I’m guilty of complaining about them myself and I work in the industry. I believe that if you entertain people, you can engage them and that’s always what I’ve aspired to create; work that real people like and enjoy. The people out there are what matters, and if you can create some movement through creativity and entertainment then you’re on to a winner. 

Next one: Do you feel proud to work in advertising? Is it something that you are happy to tell people is your job? 

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Brunchettas – Seduction

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Hutchinson Telecom – Coward

Above: Brunchettas Seduction and 3 Coward, two classic spots directed by Robinson. 


SJ: I’m proud of a lot of the work that I’ve made with Harry and Quiet Storm, yes. Proud to be part of the industry itself? I’m a bit more conflicted. I love the work, the process, the company and the people – it’s hard to imagine a job that allows you to have more fun every day. On the other hand, my girlfriend is a doctor. It gives you really strong sense of what’s important in life and what’s frivolous. When you find yourself debating whether we should give the Statue of Liberty six arms instead of her normal two, you can catch yourself and you’re like – “what the actual hell are we doing here?”. That’s probably why it’s fun.  

Next question to you: Do you think the industry has got too serious now? Does it need a bit more anarchy?

It's becoming increasingly difficult to be brave in such a turbulent climate. 

TR: I just think people need to look at where the gaps are out there. It’s usually not people’s intention, but it’s much easier to fall in line with what’s fashionable and what is the norm, so as not to stand out and be the odd ball. It’s the same with coming up with ideas, no one wants to be laughed at, they want to be praised. I think people are more afraid of being exposed but it’s understandable as it's becoming increasingly difficult to be brave in such a turbulent climate. 

I think people just need to remember that those are the sorts of ideas that will create a genuine ripple, so don’t be afraid of your ideas not being liked and dividing people, some of the best concepts are really polarising. Yes, it’s got to be populist, because that’s what we do, but people don’t want to hear the same gags again and again, and they definitely hate being bored. 

What do you think the industry could do better?

Above: Janous's design work for the Women's Equality Party.


SJ: Make people laugh. Take itself less seriously. Be more self-aware. There are so many great ads that are hilarious and entertaining, so there’s plenty being done right. There are also loads that are naval-gazing and preachy. Ads shouldn’t be a platform to preach at people from. Ads should be a breath of fresh air, a bit of bonus entertainment. We’re selling crunchy, cheesy nibbles - this shouldn’t need a manifesto for how to be a better person. 

Topical question now: What are the main challenges of running an agency during a pandemic and a lockdown?

I can usually tell if people think an idea is crap from the way they react in their body.

TR: Ha! Agreed on the cheesy nibbles. Main challenges of running an agency in lockdown; personally, I’ve realised how much I hate talking on the phone/video chats. I ‘people watch’ constantly and draw a lot from people’s body language. I can usually tell if people think an idea is crap from the way they react in their body, even if they say they like it. I also miss the creative fuel that being around other (younger!) creatives gives you. The dynamics and nuances of coming up with ideas when you’re in a room with people doesn’t really have a Zoom equivalent for me. 

However, I have seen plenty of colleagues thrive in this environment, and one thing that has been positive is how we’ve all had to think outside the box in our approach to everything. We’ve produced a full campaign for Zoflora in under a month, and everyone has done a brilliant job with their hands tied in lots of ways. It’s forced us to think differently about our approach and proves what you can achieve under crazy circumstances. We’ve tried to keep the morale up and the team connected throughout, with virtual drinks etc. Although it has obviously come with its challenges, I think we’re all managing to pull together really well, but I personally can’t wait to be around other humans and have a Guinness with you, Seb. 

The dynamics and nuances of coming up with ideas when you’re in a room with people doesn’t really have a Zoom equivalent.

Last one from me: You’ve done loads in your four years at Quiet Storm; art-directing and designing for clients including Haribo, Yakult, Pukka and Moonpig, shortlisted for a Cannes Young Lion, your work for Women’s Equality Party has just been featured in a permanent exhibition in the NYC Poster House museum, directing ads for Haribo and Moonpig; what more would you like to achieve in advertising?

Zoflora – One Big Beautiful Home

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Above: Quiet Storm's work for Zoflora, created during lockdown.


SJ: Huge question. I want your office and that nice chair you sit on. Then I can say I’ve completed advertising. Final question for you, Trev: What gives you your energy every day?

TR: Jumping on my bike really helps, I’m always surprised how much a bit of exercise makes a difference, and I love cycling. Being around you guys, the people I work with, give me energy, which is something I’m finding pretty hard in lockdown, as well as not being around my mates. What has been amazing about this weird time is how much time we’ve had together as a family, being with my kids so much has been a real treat. But everyone is starting to feel it now, my daughter is even desperate to get back to school! It makes you realise how much the outside world is a source of energy.

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