SANDRA GORDON pays tribute to her friend, colleague and golfing competitor, Gordon Muller, who is this year’s Media Agency Legend.
I confess that I have known Gordon ‘Silver Fox’ Muller for over two decades and what lingered with me when preparing this piece on his career is his consistency in style, passion and approach to business.
He and I first connected in the late 1980s when he was Saatchi and Saatchi’s group media director and I had recently launched my first publishing company. At that time he knew more about how to sell advertising than I did. He was kind, though, and never stood me up, unlike so many of his contemporaries during the glory years of advertising and media. He also gave me advice, a habit he still has. I listened and learnt then and I still do.
His approach to his work has always been heavily influenced by his passion for teaching. Gordon has a BA in English and Psychology, a diploma in Higher Education and was a teacher at Northlands Boys High School before he entered the world of advertising and media as a junior planner. He rounded off his academic training with diplomas in marketing and business management.
His desire to train and develop people within media is legendary, as is his love for media strategy and planning. During his career he has held positions at leading agencies such as Ogilvy, Bates and McCann Erickson, culminating in his appointment as managing director of OMD, a position he held from 2001 to 2005.
In testament to his ambition and passion for teaching, he formed GSM Quadrant in 1996, and the business thrives to this day. It has fed his love of the media and teaching by offering training, development and coaching, workshop facilitation and advertising and media consulting. His clients include media owners, agents and corporates. The latest on his client list includes: Avusa, Bayer, Clover, Edcon, OMD, Media24 and Tiger Brands.
What sets him apart from many media agency luminaries is his commitment to the sector outside of his day job. He served as chairperson of the Advertising Media Association of South Africa and Advertising Media Forum (AMF), represented the latter on various industry bodies such as Media and Marketing Collection Agency, the South African Advertising Research Foundation, the MAC Charter Council and the Audit Bureau of Circulations. He also wrote the first definitive book for students on media planning. He has judged at Cannes and the Festival of Media Awards in Spain. He assisted me when I was grappling with the MOST Awards concept, providing significant input and, of course, advice on the research structure and presentation.
He has been acknowledged as the 2012 media agency legend because of his ability to write and present superior media strategies consistently and explain complicated data to clients and media owners and agency staff.
Gordon makes a powerful MC. I once asked him to chair a top-level panel debating the future of media agencies. He held the floor and prompted the debate eloquently and with great humour. He is larger than life, comfortable in his space and exudes confidence.
Everyone knows Gordon to be feisty and to question long-held opinions. He is a thorn in the side of those who wish to retain the status quo and is willing to tackle thorny issues with intellectual prowess and agility.
He is a competitive sports fanatic who played rugby and tennis for KwaZulu-Natal at the under-21 level. He has run 70 standard and ultra marathons, including four Comrades. Gordon enjoys his golf as much as I enjoy beating him at it I shudder to think what his retort to this challenge will be.
Is he a worthy winner of the Media Agency Legend? Our research respondents certainly think so, and so do I. Well done, Gordi.
This story was first published in the September 2012 issue of The Media magazine.