Mark S. Robinson
Black On Madison Avenue
"Black On Madison Avenue" tells the shocking truth about one of the most un-diverse white-collar professions in America.
“Black on Madison Avenue” tells the explosive stories that Madison Avenue doesn’t want you to read.
“Black on Madison Avenue” reveals the incredible experiences of a Black man who has spent 40+ years on Madison Avenue at some of the advertising industry’s most prestigious agencies and gives readers a rare glimpse of what it’s like to be one of the very, very few Black professionals in the advertising agency business.
Advertising decides what America wants. And yet, for an industry that professes to be the vanguard of creativity, popular culture and forward thinking, advertising is one of the most un-diverse white-collar professions in America. Surprisingly, despite all of its public gestures of “wokeness”, Madison Avenue would like to keep it that way.
“Black on Madison Avenue” explains how – and why – the author landed on Madison Avenue, and shares some of his incredible adventures over the past 40+ years. Yes, adventures. Have you ever gotten into a shouting match with a Venezuelan Army general in the middle of a military coup? He has. He kidnapped advertising legend Jim Jordan, insulted high-ranking Chinese government officials at a formal dinner and launched the first multicultural marketing holding company.
Mark Robinson was the co-founder of Spike/DDB, along with filmmaker Spike Lee and has stories no one else could tell. Robinson’s stories include Bill Cosby, Mike Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Usher, Oprah, Zsa Zsa Gabor, James Brown and Notorious B.I.G.
“I have given my entire adult professional life to this business. Advertising is not just what I do. It is a part of who I am. I am Black on Madison Avenue.”
Mark S. Robinson
Mark’s professional career spans over 40+ years that include an amazing record of experience at some of Madison Avenue’s leading agencies, including LINTAS, Grey Advertising, The UniWorld Group and Spike-DDB.
Beginning his career in account management at SSC&B:LINTAS, Mr. Robinson quickly rose to become the agency’s first African American Vice President before moving on to Grey Advertising, where he was also their first African American vice president. Over the years, Mark has worked for Clairol, Lipton Tea, Pillsbury, Coors Light, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, HBO, Harrah’s Entertainment, Diageo, the U.S. Army and others.
In just the first 12 years of his career, Mark has helped to develop and launch seven new product brands, going from concept brainstorm to store shelf. Every one has been successful, most are leaders in their categories. This invaluable experience has taught Mark the secrets of how to build “something from nothing” and fueled his highly successful entrepreneurial career.
During his tenure at The UniWorld Group Mark began more than 30 years in multicultural marketing. In 1997, Robinson was chosen for his considerable expertise in this field by creative icon, Spike Lee to launch and manage a new agency, Spike/DDB. Mark was co-founder and Managing Director, building the agency from virtual start-up to a $35 million dollar phenomenon in one year. Mr. Robinson has been featured in Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Advertising Age.
In 2001, Mark Robinson brought the holding company concept to multicultural marketing and was recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year for the successful launch of his next company, S/R Communications Alliance; the industry’s very first 100% minority-owned network of 10 multicultural advertising companies, with combined business of $225 million.
For the past 20 years, Mark has had an enviable portfolio of private consulting clients, including The Centers for Disease Control, GE Capital, IBM, Lockheed Martin and the New Haven Housing Authority. For the Department of Homeland Security, Mark led/conducted management training and leadership training skills workshops for senior level department staff in the context of high stress/urgent deliverables. Mark was a strategic advisor to AOL’s Marketing division during the ISP’s dynamic transformation from a subscription to an advertising-based business.
Mark Robinson is the recipient of the 2023 Paragon Award from the 4a"s Society of Excellence, and the 1970's Diamond of the Decade Award from the 4A's Foundation.
BOARDS & COMMISSIONS
Past member of the AAF (American Advertising Federation) Multicultural Marketing Leadership Council.
National multicultural marketing touring lecturer for the AEF (Advertising Education Foundation).
Recipient of the 2001 Entrepreneur of the Year Award from New Ventures magazine.
Former Vice Chair, A Better Chance
Former Vice Chair (1999 - 2012) Martin Luther King Commission, State of Connecticut
Board Member, The Connecticut Mirror
REVIEWS & PRAISE
from across the advertising industry
“One of the earliest graduates of 4A's MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program), Mark shares his incredible journey through a storied advertising career. It's a reminder of the reason that MAIP was created nearly 50 years ago. Mark's experiences - shared through reflections via challenges and triumphs - highlight ways that we recognize the need to continue our work and support our 4,000+ community of MAIP alumni in the advertising and marketing industry.”
4A's Foundation / American Association of Advertising Agencies
Mark sharply illuminates the experiences of Black professionals in the advertising industry. Black creativity, excellence and innovation shine brightly. Entertaining, realistic, optimistic, and challenging, in all the right ways, Black on Madison Avenue imparts timeless lessons that will leave you wanting more.
Renetta E. McCann
Advertising Hall of Fame, Class of 2023
Finally, a book that advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion in advertising. Robinson makes the case for representation personal yet universal. As an educator, I will be assigning this book and am thrilled to have a resource written by an esteemed pro who embodies all that is good in the profession.
Robin Landa, MFA
Distinguished Professor, Michael Graves College at Kean University
Part autobiography, part history lesson, part cautionary tale. This unpredictable and vivid journey is a rare peek behind the Black curtain. It’s densely packed with stories of an industry that at once accepted and rejected the author’s talents for reasons most obvious to him and those who look like him and is, at its core, the story of all Black men and women who fell in love with an industry that rarely loved them back.
Chief Creative Officer, The Martin Agency
Despite the challenges, sometimes compromising colleagues and chaos of the 1970’s world of advertising, Mark Robinson persevered and carved out a remarkable career as an African-American Ad Man, which is so adeptly demonstrated in his book “Black on Madison Avenue.”
Through the pages of “Black on Madison Avenue” Mark tells the story of being the only one, maintaining one’s moral compass, rising up the ranks and then moving on to one’s own “shop” while also giving the reader an ad industry history coupled with a Black History Civil Rights lesson. An honest and inspiring read…
Constance Cannon Frazier
Principal, Cardinal Change Consulting
Former COO, American Advertising Federation
I’ve spent my professional career chronicling the African American experience in advertising. We’ve long needed more stories from that group of blacks who’ve driven the industry forward, and Mark Robinson has stepped into that gap and offered us his story. If you’ve any interest in advertising, business, race, client relationships, or just doing work, pick this book up.
Mark’s book is filled with insight, surprises, and stories that will sometimes make you laugh out loud and other times shake your head in frustration. The time you spend with Mark won’t be wasted, and you’ll be glad you’ve added his book to your library.
JASON P. CHAMBERS, Ph.D.
Author, Associate Dean for DEI | Associate Professor, Advertising
"Mark Robinson has not written the typical Madison Avenue memoir -- thank goodness! 'Black on Madison Avenue' is enlightening, written with tough love, the toughest love this side of a Marine drill sergeant. Mark is frank in his descriptions of the shortcomings of the advertising industry he has worked in for decades and offers concrete steps to take so that it no longer resembles what he calls a 'luminescent snowstorm.' Very much worth reading."
Former Advertising Columnist, The New York Times
“I BLOODY LOVE THIS BOOK."
Former Chair, BBH / "The Michael Bay of Business"