Gordon Patterson was deeply involved in media research, and played an enormous role in helping set up the new Establishment Survey and in unifying the disparate views on the way forward.
‘Our wonderful Wizard of Oz’
My dear friend Terry Murphy called me shortly after we had heard the shocking and devastating news about our friend and colleague. Her first comment to me was, “this can’t happen to Gordon Patterson, he can’t not be around, because he is like our wizard of Oz.
As the story goes, three young adventurers travelled along the yellow brick road to seek the help of the legendary Wizard of Oz, and upon meeting him, each encountered a different Oz, and ultimately, albeit he wasn’t who they thought he was, he still offered his help in whichever way he could.
Terry is right, Gordon has been, was and always will be our Wizard of Oz. Like Oz, Gordon captured the hearts and minds of many many people in our industry and there were certainly many many different sides to the man. Whether one liked what he said or not, whether one believed in what he believed in or not, whether one wanted to hear what he had to say or not, was never really the point. The point was that Gordon captured a HUGE space in this industry because he CARED – he wanted to care, he wanted to get involved and he wanted to help. With Gordon’s great fame, there will come great urban legends and the stories of Gordon will live on and those stories will take on all sorts of different shapes and forms through time.
This is my story of Gordon
I started my career in this industry, 35 years ago, on 1 September 1981 at the Argus Group, a young Gordon arrived six months later on the 1st March 1982, clad in a three piece suit and stripped tie. The pair of us soon became friends, as we were two young trainees, among some giants at the time.
Our friendship extended outside of work, as we both loved drinking Coca–Cola and going to the movies! We went to movie–night at least once or twice a month and apart from buying us each a Coca–Cola, Gordon would always buy one box of Cadbury Nutties chocolates for us share during the movie! Gordon and I laughed about our regular movie night and those Cadbury Nutties just the other evening before the AMASA / Establishment Survey presentation.
Like many of us, Gordon and I grew up together in this industry, as we stepped onto the yellow brick road together. We were trained and mentored by the same person, Andy Halley–Wright, at the same time, in the same office in the Star Building in Sauer Street. Over the years, our relationship took all sorts of twists and turns, as one does through all the adventures on the yellow brick road of our industry! We went from being very close friends to rivals to adversaries (at times) to great colleagues and then back to a new type of friendship that we started to form, this one being of absolute steel–like support, as we navigated our way through the early stages of the Establishment Survey project.
Gordon came to see me when I was put onto the SABC Board (essentially to represent our industry). He wanted to help and wanted to know how to go about it. I explained that the only way to assist the SABC would be to support the sales and marketing division of the SABC. What followed from that conversation, was that we started the Advertiser / SABC Forum.
When the BRC spearheaded the Establishment Survey project, Gordon was co–opted to represent the AMF and MASA through the tender process. During that time, Gordon came to see me at the fledgling BRC that I was charged to set–up, and upon seeing that I was working all alone, he asked how he could help. I asked him if he could please get the AMF involved with BRC TAMS (and later on with BRC RAM), he quite simply said, “Consider it done my friend, you provide me with the USER FORUM dates and I will round up the troops.” Gordon was so excited about the new BRC radio project and the entire BRC will always be thankful for Gordon’s unwavering support.
Gordon and I spoke often of the fact that we started our careers together and laughed as we remembered the magical word used to “get into AMPS” (in those days) was @ XQT SUPERBUMP and that now, both grey haired and in the latter stages of our careers, we were creating a whole new world out of the Multi–Media Establishment Survey.
The work on the ES will continue and we will certainly finish what we started, but I have no idea what the magical word will be to “get into the ES” without Gordon at my side, perhaps it will quite simply be OUR WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ!
God–speed Gordy, I will miss you always! – Clare O’Neil, CEO of the Broadcast Research Council
An extraordinary man
Gordon was extraordinary in everything – the way he ate, the way he worked, the way he played, the way that he interacted with people. During the three years that I worked for Gordon and the 15 years that I knew him, I deeply respected his ability to connect with all kinds of people with sincerity, honesty and sensitivity.
He always engaged with me in this way as he did with everyone else – it is no wonder that we came to love him as a leader, a colleague and a friend who was genuinely interested in our lives and the paths that we had chosen. Even the young, Bambi-eyed media sales representatives who emerged from Gordon’s office bewildered and stuttering would later acknowledge that Gordon’s advice had been forthright, constructive and invaluable.
Gordon was a man of action. How he packed in everything that he did, is a mystery and a marvel! He did everything with complete commitment and passion. In addition to running a business and doing service on many of the Media Industry representative bodies, Gordon also had time for a social life.
He once spent a weekend polishing his classic Porsche for a show and told me that he had used a toothbrush on the engine to make sure it was spotless! He said that the engine was clean enough to eat off. I believed him. Another time I asked about his weekend. He told me that he had spent it deep diving in a lake with zero visibility and sub-zero temperature. I believed him. Even at the annual Starcom sports days Gordon showed his remarkable skill in the sack race!
In my opinion, it was Gordon’s genuine empathy for the well-being and development of his fellow man that was his greatest gift. When we were looking for an Agency partner for the AMASA Learnership Programme, Gordon was the first person we called. He didn’t disappoint, taking on our first recipient of the Learnership award. Gordon would always give freely of his time and knowledge to anyone who asked for it.
On numerous occasions I received phone calls from media owners who had been told by Gordon to make a donation to the AMASA Learnership Fund in return for his time at speaking engagements. Gordon had the innate ability to meaningfully engage with people at all levels, from fresh-faced media interns to grumpy clients to stressed-out emotional media planners (and boy can we be emotional!), by first listening, then empathising and then rationalising. Or sometimes he would just listen and give a word of encouragement, a hug or a pat on the back – that was enough.
Gordon was my colleague, my mentor and my friend. I am sincerely thankful for having been part of his extraordinary life.- Brad Aigner, Freshly Ground Insights
A significant and indelible legacy
The Publisher Research Council (PRC) joins the media industry in expressing a deep sense of loss at the tragic passing of Gordon Patterson.
Gordon’s contribution to the media industry over the past three decades is unparalleled and his uncompromising business principles and unmatched desire to share his knowledge with newcomers to the industry have set a benchmark for anyone who believes in the future of the media industry in South Africa. He leaves a significant and indelible legacy.
No sector of the media industry has been untouched by Gordon’s passion and commitment to excellence, but it is for his contribution to mapping out a ‘Post AMPS’ landscape for publishers and broadcasters alike, and ensuring that ABC circulation data remains a legitimate and agile business tool, that the PRC expresses its particular thanks.
The PRC and all members of the publishing sector, extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Sonja and his family at this time of loss. – Gordon Muller and Peter Langschmidt, Publisher Research Council
Fearless fighter for truth
Gordon Patterson was a mensch – a person of strength and honour. He would choose the right path always after having thought about it deeply. Thinking is difficult for most, judging is easier. Not so for Gordon. He was a fearless fighter for truth and relentless in asking questions, without giving instructions. This takes immense wisdom and kindness to do, both of which he had in spades.
Gordon lived Love, not Form. His humour was wicked and immediate. I will never forget his gravelly voice and twinkly eyes. Listening to his diving adventures and admiring his photographs reminded me about the wondrous world we live in. Hearing the story of his saving a diver made me want to cry, because of the primality of the experience, which was typical for him. Gordon to me is symbolised by the Sea Shepherd Organisation, which he loved.
He was a pirate for the greater good. He said to me this year, “You remind people of their frailties, Andrea”. His untimely death makes me feel frail. I feel desperately sad for his beautiful Sonja and the many lives, which are immensely poorer for his passing. – Andrea Gevers, Ask Afrika
An enormous heart
I first met Gordon briefly nearly 20 years ago and wondered whether I could relate to this eclectic man who did these crazy things. After a few encounters, I realised what an enormous heart he had, how profoundly intelligent he was and how passionate he was for this industry. His honest assessments about advertising, media, the economy and everything around it were a breath of fresh air. We will miss this industry giant at a time that he is needed the most. Gordon, you left our world too soon. Our deepest condolences to Gordon’s family and especially to Sonja. – Oresti Patricios, Ornico
Voice of reason
Gordon was a widely respected media strategist, media commentator and an icon in the media world. He was the voice of reason and was instrumental in bringing the industry together when it was most divided. He gave selflessly and mentored many of the young stars we see in the industry today. His passion for media, photography and his love of the environment were contagious. Gordon you are leaving a gap that can never be filled and you will be sorely missed. – Janet Proudfoot, e.tv Research
He lived life to the full
I had the privilege of knowing Gordon for the past three decades. In this time we worked together on various committee’s and shared many ideas about our industry. I will miss his support, encouragement and words of advice. I will miss his incredible photographs and stories of daring escapades. He lived life to the full.
Gordon and I also laughed hard over the years, one incident that I remember fondly, was when Gordon asked me to bring back both wet and dry reptile food from Florida. He said he would get someone in SA to replicate for his beloved pets. It was in the early nineties when reptile food was not available here! He named one of his pets Jennifer.
Go well my friend, I will miss you beyond words. – Jennifer Daniel
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