In the hot seat: Mike Shackle, Grey MENA

Mike Shackle, Chief Creative Officer at Grey MENA, on creativity and inspiration in advertising

After a varied early career that included selling washing machines and cooking for the Queen, Mike Shackle abandoned the kitchen knives for a Mac and a marker pen and has never looked back. His career has taken him around the world — Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, New York, London and now Dubai — looking after some of the world's biggest brands, including Emirates Airlines, Vaseline, Microsoft, Standard Chartered Bank and Caltex amongst many others. Mike is the Chief Creative Officer for Grey MENA and he can more often than not be found daydreaming over a cup of tea.

Following the success of our Global Power Book #PRProSeries, we continue the series exploring the careers of the most powerful communications pros around the world today. We sat down with Mike to find out how he made it in the industry.

Why did you get into advertising?

My father worked in advertising so I grew up ‘in the business’ and knew it was a great way to make a living. Even so, I had lots of other jobs when I was younger from selling washing machines to cooking for the Queen of England. However, fate (and a life-changing accident) brought me back to the family business. I got a job in an ad agency drawing storyboards and went from there.

What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?

I’m pretty determined. When I set my mind on something, not a lot can stop me from achieving that goal. I’m very focused in what I do and that’s really helped me.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?

As a creative, you face your biggest challenge every day. You have to constantly generate new ideas that are better than you had the day before, the hour before, and the minute before. That demand never stops. The best piece of work you’ve ever done should be the last thing you worked on – not an idea from five years ago! The moment you get comfortable or are relying on past successes, you’ve failed.

Who is the most inspiring person you’ve ever worked with?

You should be surrounded by people who inspire you every day – planners, account serving, fellow creatives. It's people that spark new solutions and give you the courage to explore new directions. However, if I had to pick one person, it would have to be John Hegarty. I learned something from every conversation I had with him and his passion for the business is still as strong today as it has ever been. I saw him give a talk when I was a student that made me want to get into advertising even more. Christophe Becker at Gyro was also an amazing man. Really caring and insightful. Every day was a joy working with him. Another inspiration was Nils Andersson when we worked together in China. He showed me that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you always need to be doing world-class work.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

The harder you work the more successful you are. Everyone has talent but it’s hard work that makes you succeed.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the next two years in the region?

I think it’s a really exciting time for the region; we’re at a tipping point creatively. There are a few agencies doing really exciting work and the rest of us need to build on that momentum. The changing economic climate will force everyone to step outside their comfort zones and embrace creativity as a force to make a real difference to business. As a result, we’ll see the region become a world-class centre for advertising.

What three words best describe you [as a communicator]?

Passionate. Determined. Inquisitive.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into advertising?

You have really got to be passionate about advertising as it’s a tough, demanding business – but it’s a million times more fun than having a real job…

What did you think about the creativity in Cannes this year?

I thought there was a lot of good work there. There were some surprises with regards to what did well and what didn’t do well. I think the things that won really deserved it though. My favourite piece of work was the ‘Call a Swede’ Tourism Campaign by INGO Grey. I thought that was really groundbreaking and different. 


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