Owner and Creative Director of the Downtown-based Hullabaloo Agency, Gordon Robertson has worked with clients such as MSA, Evoqua and United Way of Southwestern PA. President of the American Advertising Federation – Pittsburgh, Robertson previously worked as a creative director for global agencies based in Chicago and St. Louis.
What is the best part of your job?
Being a creative director (and writer and new business director) means I’m constantly in learning mode. Clients call on me for my marketing and creative expertise, but it’s me who gets to say, “I don’t know anything about your product or business … please tell me more.” Over the years, I’ve created campaigns in dozens and dozens of categories but I still find joy in being thrown into something I know nothing about. A healthy ego only gets you so far. Having a healthy naiveté comes in much handier.
What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
Here’s the pitch: We need a Pittsburgh-based GPS navigation app. Think of it as “Waze for Yinz.” When I first moved to Pittsburgh from Chicago in 2007, I really committed myself to getting to know my new city, and I got lost every damn day. Now it’s twelve years later, and I still don’t know how to get to Wexford. And the normal GPS apps only work so well here. Uber drivers who’ve lived here all their lives still get turned around and wind up accidentally going through the Liberty Tunnels. Somehow this magical app would also warn you when a well-intended Pittsburgh driver waves you on to a near-certain collision. Come on, CMU. I have faith in you.
What’s the one thing you would love to change about Pittsburgh?
The progress we’ve made on reclaiming our waterways has been far too slow. Our rivers should be a cultural and recreational strength of our region and instead we treat them like unavoidable barriers for our daily commute.
What is the most exciting or challenging advertising campaign you have worked on, and why?
This goes back a bit, but my favorite campaign I’ve ever created was for Twix called “Two for Me, None for You.” It came from an observation I had that because Twix came in packs of two, it was the perfect candy bar to share. But, seriously, who in their right mind would? The commercials were terrific, and pretty anti-PC for the time. The client got complaint letters (the blessed pre-Twitter era), but they loved the publicity. And the sales.
Which Pittsburgh food truck do you want parked outside your house?
In Mt. Lebanon, we don’t let just anyone park on our streets. But if the PGH Taco Truck would be willing, they can permanently moor themselves on Altadena Drive and I’m sure I can get their tickets taken care of. The PTT’s Thai Peanut Chicken with Sweet Chili Slaw brings me transcendental bliss.
Podcast you’re addicted to?
There are more than a few. But I’ll say Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History.
Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?
I’m going to take some creative liberty with the question and venture out of Pittsburgh proper to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. How something man-made can be that perfectly integrated into nature just boggles me. I’ve visited there now three times during different seasons and I’m looking to get back on a snowy, wintery day.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
Pirates opening day on April 1. Nothing better than watching a game at PNC Park. If you don’t mind being seen talking to someone wearing a St. Louis Cardinals’ jersey, come say, “Hi.” Christine and I are also planning on going to the Newport Jazz Festival this summer with friends. They haven’t released a lineup yet, but in my imagination, it will be 1971 and Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Max Roach will be headliners.
It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?
You can regularly find me down at Piper’s Pub nursing a pint on a Saturday or Sunday morning rooting on Tottenham. Pittsburgh’s not exactly a hotbed for soccer, but you wouldn’t know it when you walk in the door at Piper’s on match day. Come on you Spurs!
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