The rest of Robinson's reel is a funny, yet equally eye-catching mix of work for clients like Toyota, Sony Playstation and British clothier Ozwald Boateng. Stateside, he's exhibited similar sensibilities in spots for HotJobs.com and McCann-Erickson, and in a more recent soft drink campaign for Mello Yello via Berlin Cameron.
Beyond the comedy, "I really couldn't describe my style," he says. "People will often come up to me and say, 'I saw this great funny commercial. Is it one of yours?,' which I consider a tremendous compliment. I guess most people look at my reel and think it's a bit crazy or wacky, which is good, but I'm more concerned with people sort of sitting up and taking notice."
Do advertisers and their agencies perceive a risk in working with someone whose reel is just a bit left of center? Robinson sees no problems. "These days, I would think that it's actually more of a gamble to go with someone who's going to give you a bland commercial, rather than a spot everyone at least acknowledges."
That's also pretty much the way those who've worked with Robinson look at it. Tom Parr, a creative director at McCann-Erickson in Detroit, recalls his strained nerves when, last December, he and his team had just one month to come up with a Super Bowl spot for HotJobs.com, an Internet career site. "We wanted a special look since HotJobs.com had never advertised on the Super Bowl," Parr says. "And it was obvious that Trevor had a more interpretive vision that would stand out from all the big-commercial-big-director kinds of spots we'd be up against." And the spot, featuring a middle-aged slacker who rejects several glamorous jobs so he can continue to be a night watchman, made the Top 20 on USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter.
A former writer/CD at Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, who now runs a hybrid London production house/agency called Quiet Storm, Robinson employs six full-time staffers. He's used to lots of people around him: The youngest of six siblings, Robinson grew up in the south London suburb of Clapham. He studied at several London art colleges and worked as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer before meeting up with creative partner Alan Young in 1986 at a business-to-business agency. In 1987, the two worked briefly at TBWA Holmes Knight Ritchie, an agency that put itself on the map with its Wonderbra ads; then followed a stint at HHCL.
"Then the routine got too much and I was miserable," Robinson says. "I thought, For the rest of my life I'm going to be frustrated by the fact that I'll give my work to a director who'll destroy my idea because he cares more about his reel than my commercial." So he and Young wrote and directed the Tango campaign, his first directing effort. Now, Robinson mostly views his role as one in which he gives juice to an already good idea. The will to collaborate and try different approaches should serve him well in the film world as he tweaks his three feature scripts, all based on the lives of friends, and one about alcoholic fathers. At this writing, Robinson is in L.A. shooting for Toysrus.com and Leo Burnett. All that he'll reveal about it is that "someone" has been scouting