Newspaper ad man looks back on 40 years in the business

Derek Goosen started out selling small ads behind a counter at the Cape Argus in 1981 and he went on to head up the national sales and marketing arm for Independent Newspapers.

Newspaper advertising man Derek Goosen is taking early retirement after 40 years in a business that creates the space journalists need to tell their stories.

Derek, 61, from Protea Valley, joined the Cape Argus straight out of the air force in January 1981. He started behind a counter, selling small ads and worked his way up to manage the national sales-and-marketing arm for Independent Newspapers.

He worked as a trainee sales rep at a time when it was still obligatory to wear a suit.

“When the editor called, you put on your jacket. They were very strict. The editors were gods,” says Derek.

His hunting ground was Bellville, and he recalls the first time he returned to the office with his first full-page advert in the bag.

“They phoned the client to ask if they were sure. That was my first major sale, Protea Furnishers. They’ve disappeared now.”

He reckons his fresh-faced enthusiasm helped him land that big fish. “It also helped that I have an Afrikaans surname,” he adds.

With his move to the company’s Special Projects division, he dealt with big-name clients: Garlicks, Stuttafords and Shoprite, working with Selwyn Schiff and then Brian Beyers.

He recalls selling a big advert and having to go to Shoprite’s office in Lansdowne to pick up butter, milk, baked beans and coffee, take them back to his office to have a photo taken before returning them. “And having to sign them out, all in a suit,” laughs Derek.

He then inherited the Pick n Pay account, and he remembers getting people to form an “80” shape in a car park for a picture that was used in an ad for Raymond Ackerman’s 80th birthday.

In 1996, Derek won the coveted “supplier of the year” award from Pick n Pay.

In 1994, Derek took on the INC, the national arm for sales and marketing in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, with all agents and major clients falling under him.

It was a tough job. At the time, the Cape Argus was printing 64 pages – the most the presses could handle – and the demand for newspaper ads was so high they had to turn people away, he says. But the position also came with its perks, including travel, long lunches and taking clients to the Rugby World Cup in 1999, says Derek.

Derek says the Cape Argus, the Cape Times and Cape Community Newspapers have very different clients. “For example, take a blanket, national advertising of the same product in different areas is different,” he notes. “Durban doesn’t get cold in winter, but the Cape and Gauteng do.”

During his 40 years in the business, he has seen the newspaper industry change dramatically, and he says with the rise of sophisticated digital consumerism, the power is with the client and not big companies.

“Newspapers are still respected, especially the community newspapers, and clients have gone hyper local. Competition is strong between retailers.”

Sitting in a coffee shop, where the presses used to thunder, in Newspaper House, he recalls another highlight of his career: meeting Nelson Mandela in 1995.

“We could feel the magnetism of the man,” he says.

In his spare time, Derek loves cycling and cooking, especially spicy food. He has travelled a lot and would like to do more, but a list of projects to do around the house comes first, he says.

Bryan Gibson, a client who met Derek in the 1980s when Derek took over the Ogilvy account, has fond memories of enjoying rugby from the Argus Newlands suite, playing with Derek in the Argus golf days and downing a beer or two at Forries, which they still do.

“A very special memory was his inviting me to join him as a VIP guest at the President’s Cup at Fancourt in 2003, where we spent four days walking the course with Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Nick Price, Vijay Singh and others I had long admired – a great privilege,” says Bryan.

“We’ve worked closely together since then, and I’m proud to count him as a friend.”

Neil Schreuder says that in his 10 years as marketing director for Shoprite Checkers, he cannot think of a single interaction where Derek didn’t handle himself with absolute integrity.

“He looked after our account, as the largest advertiser in the country, with professionalism and a true service mentality. He was available 24/7, and nothing was ever too much. He also never lost the human side of business relationships.

“Derek, we wish you a brilliant, well-deserved next chapter and thank you for your loyalty to enduring partnership.”