Michael Robertson's ad career provides a textbook example of how to get a foot in the door by starting in the mailroom.
Robertson, 55, recently named Heil-Brice Retail Advertising's svp and creative director, had been freelancing since the October closing of Bates USA West in Irvine, Calif., where he was vice chairman, ecd. The Glasgow, Scotland, native, who immigrated to Kerney, N.J., as a child, had visions of working for Time magazine when he graduated from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as an English major.
But Robertson visited a friend in Los Angeles whose aunt was in advertising. That led to a mailroom gig at the former Carson/Roberts, where film critic Joel Siegel was a copywriter. Siegel handed some assignments to Robertson, who eventually was promoted to a junior copywriter.
At HBRA in Newport Beach, Calif., Robertson fills a post that has been vacant since Chris Epting left the 40-person shop more than a year ago. He leads a 9-person creative department and will work on all accounts, including Ralphs supermarkets, the Los Angeles Times and Snyder's Drugstores. He reports to president and executive cd Hal Brice, whose wife, Joni, is CEO.
Robertson said he hopes to help the Brices expand beyond retail. "A retail orientation is a really healthy one to have," he said. "While that will never go away, I, and I know Hal and Joni, would like to see the agency grow more in the area of branding."
During his career, Robertson created lines such as "Driving is believing" for Hyundai and "All aboard Amtrak." He was chairman and chief creative officer of McCaffrey & McCall in New York until it merged with Bates in 1995.
In his spare time, Robertson enjoys playing the saxophone and attending classical and jazz concerts. He also tries to get to the gym seven days a week.