The late Sid Bernstein, a celebrated editor of this newspaper and top executive in our company, was for years our editorial conscience. His was the name we invoked when we debated how to handle a sticky situation. Dave Cleary played the same role on the sales side. A former Ad Age publisher and later a senior Crain executive, Dave died last month at 83.
Joe Cappo, now a Crain senior VP, was publisher of Crain's Chicago Business in its formative years. He remembers having a tough time selling ads in a special section when that publication was new. The ad director, feeling under the gun, directed his staff to sell off the rate card. They hit their sales target with the cut-rate deals, but Dave Cleary, when he found out what they'd done, ordered refunds for every advertiser who paid more than the lowest rate for which we sold an ad in the section. We didn't make much money on those ads, but Dave's dictum was a powerful lesson in sales integrity-and his action reverberated around the company.
Chuck Lauer, publisher of Modern Healthcare since we bought that publication in 1976, wrote in his "Publisher's Letter" of July 1 that Dave was "the consummate salesman ... a throwback to what selling was, is and should be. He was filled with enthusiasm for publishing and had a wonderful sense of humor."
Chuck said Dave "didn't believe in knocking a competitor. I remember him saying over and over, `Every time you knock a competitor you are reminding others they exist. Don't give them free publicity. Always take the high road. You may lose a few battles but you'll eventually win the war because you have behaved like a professional, and people respect integrity."' One of Dave's favorite statements to use against competitors that cut their ad rates, Chuck recalled, was "you can always get a good seat at a bad show."
Senior VP Gloria Scoby, with us since the beginning of Crain's Chicago Business, recollected, "You hired me, but Dave mentored me. Dave was from the old school but he had modern ideas, and he took great pride in seeing women come into the workforce and in recognizing their talents." Sometimes it worked at cross purposes, Gloria said. Dave always wanted the men to carry their rate card in their breast pocket. When he asked where hers was, Gloria said she replied it was in her purse, and "he got totally flummoxed." Gloria, now a group publisher, said Dave "didn't treat me any differently than he treated the guys. I wouldn't have gotten to my position without his help."
Dave retired in 1982, but it's obvious that, like Sid and my mother and father, his influence lives on. We're proud his granddaughter, Kathleen Robson, is a member of the Modern Healthcare editorial staff. When she smiles, you know Dave is not far away.