For the majority of his career, Danny Robinson has worked mainly in creative roles. However, since May 2018, he has been more client-facing as chief client officer of The Martin Agency.
Now returning to his roots, Robinson has been named chief creative officer of the Richmond-based agency, owned by IPG.
Robinson replaces Karen Costello, who returned to Deutsch in Los Angeles to take the top creative role after more than three years as CCO at The Martin Agency.
“I’m a huge fan of Danny,” said Costello. “Not only is he creatively ambidextrous, which is extremely valuable, but he’s also just a really good human who knows the importance of focusing on people and culture. I wasn’t planning to leave—my decision was a very personal one—but I love how we were prepared for it.”
“Danny Robinson is a role model, an ally and influencer who has made a career of lifting up those around him,” added Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo.
Robinson assumes the role at a time when agencies and their clients continue to struggle from the effects of the pandemic. The long-standing agency for Geico and UPS, The Martin Agency continues to move quickly for clients that have been impacted such as Buffalo Wild Wings, CarMax and DoorDash.
“We have some resilient clients that have done really well during this time,” said Robinson. “But there is intention. When all of this hit, it was like a starter pistol went off and time for us to sprint and push through, because we knew that it was going to be tough. We’ve been telling clients that we can do much more than they think, and now they’ve seen it.”
A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, Robinson began his career as an assistant product manager at General Foods before joining The Guild Group, where he spent a decade in creative roles. In 1997, he co-founded Vigilante, an agency focused on cultural insights and youth marketing. The agency’s most high-profile work was Oprah Winfrey’s Pontiac giveaway in 2004 and other campaigns featuring Jay-Z, Foxy Brown and more for brands including Heineken, Snapple and Sprint.
Mike Hughes, the late president of The Martin Agency, personally recruited Robinson to join the agency in 2004.
In his client-facing role, Robinson’s creative experience proved to be a great benefit. A painter outside of the agency, and with a long list of client success, he felt that he bridges the gap between art and commerce while honing his account experience.
“Working with the creators and account people allowed our teams to better understand the pressures that clients face,” said Robinson. “What I really learned was that good account professionals are creative champions who push for the great work.”
While not the first Black chief creative officer at a holding company agency—Vann Graves and Perry Fair were previously CCOs at JWT in Atlanta, for example—Robinson acknowledges that a C-suite role in a high-profile agency like The Martin Agency is meaningful.
“I’ve always done my best to try to impact the industry and make change as opposed to talking about it,” said Robinson, who noted that the agency has continued to make strides in DEI, especially in the past three years. “I’m trying to open the door (for diverse talent) as wide as I can.”
Without divulging specific plans in his new role, Robinson said that his main goals are to continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment of the pandemic while keeping the momentum going internally and for The Martin Agency’s clients, and looking forward instead of resting on past successes.
“One of the things I learned from Vibe co-founder and publisher Keith Clinkscales [at Vigilante] was to think bigger that you think you should,” said Robinson. “Martin is in the business of impacting culture, and that’s a hard thing to do if you’re not pushing. To reach for the big things, you have to take big swings, and that’s something I’m definitely leaning into.”