But he's banking on PHD, which he calls an "ideas-based agency," to change that after he helps unite its worldwide units into a truly global network. "[We are] well-poised to provide some leadership in media now," he said.
Trusts in ETNA
His faith in PHD rests on one asset in particular -- its proprietary communications planning tool, dubbed ETNA (Exploration, Thought-Leader, Neuro-planning and Action-planning), which weaves cognitive psychology into consumer insight and media strategy.
"ETNA takes a much higher ground and intellectual approach. PHD people are assessed on their ability to come up with and execute ideas. ... It's a big step up from some of the thinking processes that other media agencies have in place and it enables us to be higher up the food chain," he said.
Mr. Cooper comes to his new position, which has been left vacant since PHD co-founder David Pattison stepped down in April, after leading Omnicom Media Group Asia Pacific. Prior to that, he set up OMD Asia, laying the foundation for the network in 1997.
Mr. Cooper says building that network prepared him for his new role -- but he anticipates it will be easier this time around.
"Starting a network from scratch is an intimidating task. Having the luxury of taking over an existing network with a highly talented group of people feels like a better place to start," he said.
His main focus will be to tell the world what he already knows about PHD.
"We've never positioned PHD properly as a real global network -- there is a big task in terms of telling the world about what we've been doing. Then it's a question of going out to the market and pursing global business as rapidly as we can," Mr. Cooper said.