MEDIA HEADLINER: A modest media stalwart who is ready to conquer the world. Beth Gordon is leading the Media Edge’s international drive, Eleanor Trickett says

By ELEANOR TRICKETT, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 December 1999 12:00AM

If it is possible to blush audibly, then Beth Gordon has just done it.

If it is possible to blush audibly, then Beth Gordon has just done

it.



At the end of a telephone line stretching 3,000 miles between

Hammersmith and Manhattan, the new chairman and chief executive of the

Media Edge Worldwide squirms endearingly at the prospect of ’having to

be interesting’ for Campaign.



To describe her as the ’new’ chairman and chief executive would be less

than accurate, given that she has been within the company’s four walls

for all five years of its existence, and in its parent agency, NW Ayer,

for 16 years before that. The title is ’merely’ the result of a global

reshuffle, adding to her previous responsibility for running the

agency’s North American operations. ’I feel like an overnight star,’ she

says.



’I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve only just been

discovered.’



Although nobody will say so, many found it surprising that she scored

the top dog role over Paul Woolmington, formerly the president of Media

Edge International, and now her deputy.



But a key reason for this latest reshuffle is that with Gordon looking

after North America and Woolmington overseeing the rest of the world,

two separate brands were emerging. A consolidation was essential, and

the top job had to go to someone. The Media Edge’s US roots, and the

fact that its performance is stronger in that market than any other,

meant that its US chief was a natural person to take the brand

worldwide.



’We weren’t thinking globally,’ Gordon admits. ’Now we have a chance to

develop a single, integrated product with best practice worldwide.’



Woolmington explains the new regime: ’Beth will be looking after

operational issues and will be more internally focused, working for

Young & Rubicam. I’ll champion the product around the world and drive

our strategy forward. We have to divide and conquer, and this division

between operations and strategy is the most appropriate route.’



The Media Edge was formed proper in 1994, when NW Ayer’s media

department persuaded the management to allow them to separate and form a

new company. A driver in this process was Gordon, who admits now that

the agency was ’in difficulty’.



Gordon spearheaded the team’s bid to be sold by Ayer - which had just

been bought by DMB&B - to Y&R, in order to hang on to its best and

longest-standing client, AT&T. (DMB&B handled the rival Southwestern

Bell.) Now, of course, the plan is to get the new improved Media Edge

Worldwide to develop as a single entity.



It is difficult to get a true picture of someone without meeting them

face to face. Gordon realises this, and in preparation for this

interview has dredged up several ’interesting’ things about herself.



But while they are fascinating - she married her boyfriend on the 30th

anniversary of their first date; they were to get married in her

favourite second-hand bookstore but his dust allergy prevented it; she

has an annual spa trip with the other senior Y&R women - her passion for

creative media is the most beguiling thing about her.



Furthermore, Gordon’s unusual humility and creative spark is apparent

immediately. Stephanie Kugelman, the chairman of Y&R New York and a

fellow spa-tripper, says: ’I admire Beth for the way she inspires and

brings grace and sensibility to all she does.’



To talk about her success as a woman in a man’s world would be at worst

insulting, and tokenism at best. But it cannot go unremarked that there

are few women in the US media independents. She says: ’I don’t know why

there aren’t more in the agencies. But we try to have a balance. There

are as many women as men in my direct report.’



Gordon’s modesty rears its head again when I ask her what qualities she

thinks have taken her to where she is now. ’My staying power,’ she

laughs.



’I was at Ayer for 18 years, and it was the kind of agency that allowed

you to exercise your curiosity. If I saw an opportunity or had an idea

and said ’gee, that looks interesting’, they’d turn round and say ’do

it’.’



Gordon is not what you’d expect from the head of Y&R’s media outfit.



She doesn’t spend her life on a Boeing 747, she doesn’t work weekends

(they are saved for building a house in the Hamptons, largely in order

to house her thousands of books), and she has fun. Gordon loves her job,

and the 500-odd staff in the New York office.



As Kugelman concludes: ’She’s smart and alert, and a real visionary. But

she’s also a good person and a good friend. Beth is one of the very real

reasons why the Media Edge continues to grow.’





THE GORDON FILE



1971: WPIX Television, traffic and sales executive



1972: MMT Sales, sales and market research executive



1974: Western International Media, media buyer



1976: Compton Advertising, media buyer/planner



1978: NW Ayer, media supervisor, rising to international media

director



1994: The Media Edge, chairman and chief executive, North America



1999: The Media Edge Worldwide, chairman and chief executive.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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