David Gideon, medical media icon and industry stalwart, dies at 75

August 28, 2018 –
David Gideon, a pioneer in pharma media analysis and one-time publisher of MM&M who is also known for selflessly working to preserve the legacy of the medical advertising industry, passed away last week. He was 75.

His long and storied career saw him start one of the early audits of medical journal ad spend, called PERQ, which brought pharma media analysis into the technology age. Colleagues marveled at the diversity of his professional and personal talents–he was a musician, pilot, photographer, and devoted family man.

Beyond those contributions, people who knew him also singled out his kindness and love for the industry and the people serving it, as well as the unselfish way he gave of his time, often for a vital industry cause. Chief among these was probably the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame (MAHF), the group he co-founded with Ron Pantello in 1996 as the two friends, legend has it, shared a good meal and a couple of bottles of wine.

“During [that] very long lunch, I shared my vision for the MAHF,” recalled Pantello, chairman emeritus of Havas Health Worldwide. “Before the idea was out of my mouth, David said, ‘We have to do this.’ For me it was a vision. For David it was a must-do idea.”

Enthusiastically gathering honorees for the Hall, and dutifully making sure their stories were well-told, took up the last two decades of his life. All the effort was instrumental in recognizing those who helped build the industry. That commitment was “so typically David,” added Pantello. “It wasn’t about him; it was always about others.”

Gideon got his professional start in 1966 working as an assistant product manager for Armour Pharmaceutical, where he wrote his first marketing plan. Yet, it wasn’t the crafting of promotions where he would go on to make his first professional mark; rather, it was in measuring their effectiveness.

After a scheduled four-year tour of duty in the U.S. Navy, in which he served as an officer and was qualified to command his ship in battle, Gideon returned to Armour in 1971. Drawing on computer programming skills he picked up in the service, he developed a system for analyzing and optimizing the company’s spending on medical journal advertising.

Later he would be hired by an agency ostensibly as a copywriter but was given the time to hone these systems and to work on others for developing journal schedules and tracking advertising, which were mostly manual tasks at the time. Gideon and the agency, Stuart Williams Assoc., went on to co-found the PERQ media measurement business in 1972, offering readership audits, sales report generation, and custom offerings. Two years later, Gideon bought out Stuart’s interest.

“At one time, we estimated that two-thirds of all media buying went through PERQ, a company with four computers and three employees,” Gideon later told MM&M.

He then entered the publishing business, launching Perspectives, whose remit included covering trends in healthcare media. Perspectives also served as a way to advertise PERQ’s capabilities. Gideon wrote the editorial, another colleague handled art direction, and Beverly Reynolds, who would later become his wife, handled circulation and administration.

In 1982, by which time the publication had grown to a monthly, Gideon added another title to his stable, MM&M, becoming its publisher and editor. In 1985 he sold PERQ to VNU and relocated MM&M to Florida.

(The PMD, or Pharmaceutical Marketers Directory, was added in 1987.) The title changed hands again many years later when Gideon sold his publishing company, CPS Communications, to Haymarket, the current owner, and Gideon left after 2003.

MAHF has honored medical advertising leaders annually since 1997. Gideon moved easily into the role of executive director, forming relationships with many people over the years to assist the organization’s mission. It was through those relationships, colleagues say, that he became so beloved.

“David was indeed an icon in our industry, both as a publishing entrepreneur and a mentor and guiding spirit for many of us,” wrote Bob Palmer, MAHF chairperson since 2015 and chief innovation officer at HCB Health, in an email. “But he was much more than an industry icon; he was a genuinely warm person with many interests—from fine wine to adventurous travel—and a superb organizer and leader. Working with David has been one of the great privileges of my career.”

Indeed, the contact with Gideon seems to be what many recall most fondly of their volunteerism for the non-profit.

“If the only value that I draw from working with the MAHF is knowing David, the effort will have been rewarded a thousand-fold,” noted Jay Carter, EVP of business development at AbelsonTaylor, who preceded Palmer as chair. “He was a gentle soul who loved our industry and who took great joy in personal relationships. I don’t think that I have met a human being who was more supportive of others than David. That played out in the way the MAHF ran like a clock.”

David Chapman, a longtime MAHF board member, added, “David was quite simply one of the finest, nicest people I ever met in this business. When I served my term as chairman of the MAHF, David said, ‘Don’t worry; I’ll take care of everything,’ and he always did. His enthusiasm for MAHF never waned, even as the organization evolved.”

While the group began as a quest to preserve the achievements of industry luminaries for posterity, a few years ago it pivoted toward also recognizing the so-called Future Famers.

“When we wanted to change the MAHF into a more diverse, inclusive, and (quite frankly) younger, vital organization for the long term, David was a vocal supporter,” shared Chapman, who is managing partner at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide. “Our charter, however, was very proscribed and limited. When I asked him how to go about revising it, he said, ‘You’re the chair—just rewrite it.’ Straight talk, always appreciated.”

Sharon Callahan, CEO of Omnicom’s TBWA\WorldHealth, is also a board member and serves on the Young Executive’s Night Out Committee, a MAHF event designed to build the next generation.

“David was passionate about promoting the worth, value, and dignity of our industry by honoring the past in order to shape our present and inspire our future,” Callahan told MM&M. “I am enormously grateful and incredibly fortunate to have worked closely with David because he epitomized kindness and humanity in every situation. My favorite memory of David is how proud he always looked in his tuxedo as he greeted the guests at the MAHF February awards dinner.”

Gideon was always open to new ideas, “especially those that encouraged greater engagement of our young executives,” commented Robin Shapiro, president, TBWA\WorldHealth. “Today MAHF is a growing, thriving, and ultra-relevant organization. David’s impact will be felt for decades to come.”

Perhaps most fittingly, Gideon himself was enshrined by the MAHF in 2005.

“David always gave more than he received,” summed Pantello. “David always did the right thing, the right way, even when it wasn’t in his own interest. A mark of a great man. He was my friend. He will be missed.”

Editor’s note: Reflections on David Gideon’s life and contributions to industry continued to come in long past our story deadline. MM&M has posted them here…

David’s contributions to the healthcare communications industry are well documented. A skilled copywriter, publisher, researcher and Co-Founder of the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame, David had that rare quality of being able to lead both from in front and from behind. He pioneered new technologies and media in his early days and celebrated the contributions of industry giants toward the healthcare communications industry via the MAHF during his later years. Ours is an industry often marked by oversized egos, rabid competitiveness, and off-putting self-promotion. David rose above all of that and brought to his many relationships a calm leadership presence and self-effacing sense of humor. I never once heard of anyone who worked with David on any level speak ill of him. He was a true friend to the industry, its leaders, and the many people who came to know him on a personal and professional level. He will be missed by many of us for a very long time, but his contributions to the growth of our industry will continue to bear fruit.

Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts and appreciation for David.

Scott Cotherman
Retired CEO, CAHG & Chairman, TBWA\WorldHealth
Past Chairman, Medical Advertising Hall of Fame

Think about it. Growing up with an immensely successful father and a godfather (George Schultz) who becomes Secretary of State, yet you help put yourself through Berkeley playing in a rock band?

Then you do a stint in the US Navy flying and learn about tech-type things, which leads you to dawn-of-civilization computers, which leads to the invention of PERQ, the Nielsen of medical journals?

Meeting all those PERQ users, in turn, builds your Rolodex and gives you an appreciation for the growth of a budding industry which leads you to acquire Jack Sullivan’s Medical Marketing and Media that later winds up as a keystone in the Haymarket enterprise.

And, oh, by the way you turn your Rolodex into the Pharmaceutical Marketer’s Directory?

Then, you move to Florida and meet a printer who prints throw-away magazines for Caribbean resorts but hates the editorial side. So you and your writer/editor bride buy the rags, pitch-in and before you know it you’ve made more friendships and built a Caribbean resort publication empire with more trade-outs than anyone could use in a lifetime?

Meanwhile, annual trips to the south of France lead to friendships and business relations with one of the most successful exporters of French cheeses which go nicely with the wines featured in your on-line wine blog while you’re watching your nephew Timothy Oliphant’s latest movie or playing with your old band members at family and friends reunions?

Oh, and one more thing, when it became obvious that much of the history and contributions of the communications industries to the healthcare of Americans and the rest of the world might be lost, David joins Ron Pantello, Bill Castagnoli and too many others to mention, to create the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame?

In the meantime, much of all this was taking place against a background of my hero Beverly Gideon’s health issues that led David and Beverly to practically become Board Certified as they dealt with three-times-a-week dialysis for her kidney-less body without missing a beat of life’s pleasures.

That was David the polymath who rarely saw a challenge he couldn’t outsmart.

We’ve all heard the old saws that “you’ll make all your best friends (plug time-frame in here) in grammar school, high-school, college, early career, etc. etc.” Ignore them.

Not only was David an esteemed colleague throughout my career, but for the past 10 years or so, one of the most intimate friends of my life. There are no words to express my sense of loss

Harry Sweeney
former chairman and chief creative officer of Dorland Global

This article originally appeared on mmm-online.com.

Comments are closed.