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By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

April 3, 2013 | 6 min read

The Drum meets CEO of PHD, Mike Cooper, in the latest of a series with twistorstick speaking to leading figures to find out what it takes to get a job in industry

Interview by Marc ShelkinHaving started his career in London and worked around the world for some of the globe's biggest agencies, the career advice from CEO of PHD, Mike Cooper, for those looking for jobs in advertising is simple: be yourself, find a way to stand out and make yourself essential to any employer.Cooper began his career in 1983 at 80 Charlotte Street, London at Saatchi & Saatchi and it took him half way across the world. After being a self-confessed 'dogs body' - known as a media assistant in the trade - for a period, he was transferred to Hong Kong as Saatchi's media director in 1989. By 1991 he was the CEO for Saatchi and Saatchi in Hong Kong."In ended up running the advertising agency in Hong Kong, which is quite a serious job actually and I was still quite young," he explains. It was there that he learned what he says is best bit of career advice he can offer to those looking for a job in the advertising industry."I've learned it myself and I've learned it through bitter experience," he says. "When I took over running an advertising agency, being a media guy, there were an awful lot of people that that it was ridiculous, there was a lot of resistance to it."My way of dealing with that was to try and pretend in the first few months in the job to be my predecessor. I was actually so scared - I felt under qualified, I wouldn't have given myself the job to be honest with you. What I learned very quickly was that if you try to be somebody else it never works, you've got to be yourself. The best piece of advice I'd ever give to anybody is have the confidence to be yourself in whatever role you are in."Cooper carried on at Saatchi's for another five years before taking up a role in television with CNBC Asia Pacific, working on distribution and ad sales. He was then recruited by Omnicom in 1997 to set up OMD in Asia Pacific."I was the first employee of OMD in the world, I got in right at the beginning of Omnicom's entry into being a media specialist," he says. "I was employee number one which is bizarre really, across the group there are around seven or eight thousands employees now."Working for Saatchi's during its boom period taught Cooper a few important lessons about taking business and success for granted."The problem with working with Saatchis at that time was that they were doing so well that they were achieving global domination, so probably entirely incorrectly we just tended to ignore all other competitors and we were just ridiculously arrogant - which was kind of a joke because we were all really badly paid."But we were hopelessly arrogant and that arrogance ran through the entire organisation, probably including media as well and we didn't have any justification for being as arrogant as we were. I think we did believe we could walk on water and look what happened to Saatchi & Saatchi a few years later. It never really worked."In his current role of chief executive at media agency PHD, Cooper is bringing success. PHD was named Media Agency of the Year nine times in a number of regions in 2011, including Australia, Canada, the USA and China. In the same year it won gold, silver and bronze awards at the Cannes Lions festival."I think the most important thing you can tell somebody trying to get into advertising is that there's an enormous wealth of information and contacts you can make in the business and what you want to avoid doing is just being another person waiting for an interview," he says."You've got to find ways of standing out and you've got to decide on a strategy and a technique to get into the business. I think the single most important thing to impress upon people is that they've got to make an impression. They've got to be go-getters and they've got to read around, have opinion about things, they can't just turn up to an interview and talk about what they did on their holidays or what societies at school they were president of, they've got to stand out."PHD runs a paid internship programme, as does its satellite companies, Drum and Rocket, which Cooper says provide excellent opportunities for young people to learn and make themselves indispensable."One of the easiest ways to get into the business is to be an intern after you've graduated and just focus on making yourself essential. It becomes relatively easy to convince somebody to actually start paying you properly."To round off the interview, Cooper took part in a quick-fire questions round.Olympic gold medal or an Oscar?Olympic gold medalCreatives or suits?CreativesAnt or Dec?NeitherSpice Girls or Girls Aloud?Girls AloudFacebook or Twitter?FacebookThe brightest person you've worked with?Mark HoldenThe most creative person you've worked with?Paul ArnoldFavourite flavour of crisps?Don't eat crispsTake That or Westlife?NeitherDegree or no degree?Doesn't matterThe Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea?I'm from west London, it's got to be ChelseaRetained work or pitched work?I like doing pitched work, it doesn't pay well but I like doing itWeb or mobile?MobileIndependent agencies or networked agencies?It's got to be networked agencies really hasn't itOutsourced production or onsite production?Combination of bothDon Draper or Roger Sterling?Don every timeAnd lastly, twist or stick?[Laughs] What's that supposed to mean?Anything you want it to meanTwistTo view the latest jobs in advertising, design, digital media and marketing in your area, visit The Drum's job section
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