The legendary ‘Gibbo’
Few people know this year’s Media Owner Legend, Linda Gibson, quite as well as her life partner, sports journalist DAN RETIEF. The Media asked him to write her profile.
The sudden keyboard paralysis that sets in as I start to write this article tells me that this is going to be an assignment I should not have agreed to – the doom-laden journalistic equivalent of “do these jeans make me look fat?”
Applying all her considerable powers of persuasion, Peta Krost Maunder, editor of The Media, had called me with what she thought was a really good idea. “It will certainly be unique,” she said of what she was so glibly asking, “I don’t think it’s been done before.”
Now, applying fingertips to keys, I agree. It hasn’t been done before and I’m finding it difficult to do it now – how does one write a profile on one’s life partner without overdoing it, appearing insincere, holding back too much, annoying the industry, and most of all, seriously pissing off the subject herself?
Plus. How does one keep the secret? Peta obviously had to tell me why she needed this piece and why she thought I should be the one to write it, but swore me to absolute confidentiality. “No-one must know, you can’t talk to anyone, most of all you-know-who,” she said.
But of course I knew who. Linda Gibson. My soul mate, my friend, my confidante, my muse, my taskmaster with whom I renovated and now share a lovely home, family and many, many friends.
I was immensely chuffed that Linda, or ‘Gibbo’ as she is known in advertising, sales and marketing circles, had been singled out for this tribute, for I have seen how hard she works, how much she cares and the 24/7 commitment she makes.
“It’s tough out there,” is a phrase every reader of The Media will relate to and for the last couple of relentless years I have admired Linda’s grit and determination as she knuckled down to the positions she held in recent years: taking on the challenge of heading up, restructuring and keeping competitive Ads24, the sales arm of Media24 newspapers.
I know one of the hardest aspects of writing this piece on Linda is that I am going to have to deliver it without her seeing it. She won’t like that. If there is one thing about Linda, it is that she is a stickler for things being correct and free of misinterpretation and I worry that there might be something in here that she would have changed – if not all of it!
The one thing about Linda is that she is who she is and you get what you get. She is a ‘sales person’ to her fingertips and proud of it. She is proud that she hails from the South (Robertsham Primary), proud that she went to Potchefstroom Girls High and proud that she has worked in every branch of media.
Linda loves the rustle of paper, rejoices in the printed word and believes people buy papers and magazines to look at advertisements! We have a standing arrangement that the first two hours on a Sunday morning are “for the papers” – a period in which Linda’s hearing fails and she brooks no intrusion while she scans the Sundays. Legend has it that these two hours are echoed on a Monday morning when her staff get “what for” for anything they might have missed.
Recently Linda has assumed added responsibility for digital platforms and she has become a dedicated “i” person – iPhone, iPad, iPod – and one has little doubt that her pragmatic approach (“it’s still sales, it’s still advertising, the rules haven’t changed”) will make her as successful as she has been in print, radio and TV.
This attribute was much in evidence when, as an English speaker, she joined Ads24 to sell Afrikaans titles. Instead of worrying that she might not cope, Linda saw the opportunities presented by a unique and picturesque language and a clearly defined market segment to drive eye-catching and successful ‘Power of Afrikaans’ campaigns.
As one who has spent a lifetime associating with successful sportsmen and business people, it is easy to see that the steady upward curve of Linda’s career stems from the respect she has for her mentors and her peers.
As Dr Danie Craven suggested, she “steals with her eyes and ears” and often talks about how much she learnt from legends of the industry such as Barbara Cooke, Peter McKenzie and Harrry Herber and the inputs she derives from her friends and associates – Clare O’Neil, Sandra Gordon, Ginny Hollis, Adelaide McKelvey, Elana de Swardt, Shirley Bonthuys and so many others.
If I were asked to list the most important things I can take from having met and been with Linda, one of the first would be the friends I have made. Linda is loyal to a tee, her ‘little black book’ of contacts is legendary and her ability to network – unparalleled. I have often joked that if I were ever to write a novel it would be about the divas who control the collective industry entitled, ‘The Sisters of Sales!
As for the nuts and bolts of it, Linda started her career in the African media and advertising industry in 1986, commencing at Capro Ltd. She then joined Times Media Ltd (now Avusa Media) selling national advertising across Sunday Times, Business Day and Financial Mail. Linda next moved into television and radio, representing TV Africa throughout sub-Saharan Africa with the focus on securing revenue for sports and entertainment programming.
In early 2003 she joined the SABC as national sales and sponsorship manager for radio and TV. In 2006 Linda joined Kaelo, consulted to Massive TV in 2008, and did CSR/media sales training for an organisation in Nigeria before moving to Ads24 in late 2008 as head of inland sales. She was appointed CEO in April 2009.
Linda believes it is important to give back or be involved in the industry and has served on Amasa, SAARF and PMSA in various capacities over the years.
If there is something on her mind or work that needs to be done Linda gets on with it – sometimes at four in the morning! This determination, or streak of perfectionism, is borne out by her achievements in sport (apart from giving some pretty good shape to a pair of Polly Shortts!) which run to four Comrades marathons, two Two Oceans, four Midmar Miles, one Argus cycle race, two 94.7 cycle races and three 5FM/Energade triathlons (running, swimming, cycling).
Linda can be hardegat and stubborn; she can commit delightful malapropisms such as “don’t get on your big stallion”. She can worry about the state of the industry and she can be impatient, but always her positive energy shines through, her radiant smile lights up the room and her friends revel in her company.
I know that she will be deeply touched and appreciative to be singled out in this way by her friends, peers and colleagues. My own, completely biased, view? It is richly deserved – the girl done good! n
Other than being Linda Gibson’s life partner, Dan Retief is one of South Africa’s top sports journalists, having won numerous awards during his with a career spanning 40 years.