Obituary: Herbert D. Gordon / Ad executive shepherded Yellow Pages through changes

Sept. 18, 1938 - May 4, 2013

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Advertising executive Herbert D. Gordon watched the Yellow Pages industry change and change again, from the advent of the computer to the breakup of Bell Telephone through the rapid growth of directory publishers to the Internet era that followed.

"He was highly respected in the Yellow Pages industry as well as the larger advertising community," said Nancy Augustine, a senior vice president with the Local Search Association, a trade group for Yellow Pages publishers.

"Herb was a wonderful leader and mentor."

Mr. Gordon, of Edgeworth, died Saturday. He was 74.

Born in the suburbs of Boston and a graduate of Tufts University in Medford, Mass., his advertising career began in 1965 as a trainee at Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove, which later became Ketchum Inc., the Pittsburgh-based ad and marketing company. In 1969, he left for Denver, but he returned to Ketchum a few years later.

Back in Pittsburgh, he soon joined Ketchum's executive leadership team, and in the early 1980s, he was put in charge of its fledgling Yellow Pages unit. Under his direction, the unit grew, adding several satellite offices, each of them placing ads for large corporations in the thousands of Yellow Pages directories across the country.

It was a new model -- before the 1980s and the personal computer, selling ads for Yellow Pages directories was a local, labor-intensive job, handled by regional ad salesmen. With nearly 200 publishers and more than 6,000 different directories, placing an ad in each of them was a logistical headache.

"It made it easier for the publishers," Gerald J. Voros, former Ketchum president, said of the new model. "He was the one who made our Yellow Page division really grow," turning it into a $100 million operation, Mr. Voros said.

"He was a major contributor to the growth of Ketchum."

Eventually, Mr. Gordon was named president of Ketchum Specialty Services, which oversaw the Yellow Pages accounts, sales promotion and health care. In 1991, that unit was reorganized, and Mr. Gordon moved out of Ketchum's Downtown offices and into new digs near the airport, at the Moon-based Association of Directory Marketing, a Yellow Pages marketing organization.

He was its CEO, serving on its board of directors as well as on the boards of the Yellow Pages Association and Association of Directory Publishers trade organizations. His tenure with the Yellow Pages groups coincided with the rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of the Google search, sea changes that would challenge the Yellow Pages' print profit model, forcing publisher consolidations and trade group mergers.

"He really adjusted quite well," Ms. Augustine said. "He encouraged our industry to develop digital products that would complement the print product."

His ability to shift gears, and careers, allowed him to offer insight and mentorship to those who did the same. Ray Werner, a former Ketchum executive, left the firm in 1986 to start Werner Brother Inc., a local ad firm.

"He was so supportive," Mr. Werner recalled. "There he was, going out of his way for me. That's what he did for everybody."

Mr. Gordon retired in 2009.

Before landing at Ketchum, from 1960 to 1965, Mr. Gordon served as an officer with the U.S. Air Force's 389th Strategic Missile Wing, an intercontinental ballistic missile training unit based in Wyoming.

Mr. Gordon is survived by his wife, Annemarie Martin Gordon; three sons, Michael Gordon of Plano, Texas, and Chris and Stephen Boles, both of Pittsburgh; two sisters, Ruth Ellis of Escondido, Calif., and Eleanor Gibb of Springfield, Mass.; and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Andrews United Presbyterian Church, 801 Beaver St., Sewickley.

obituaries - businessnews

Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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