Commentary

We Have Lost John Durham, Our Forever Guiding Light

  • by , Featured Contributor, November 16, 2021

Our industry lost its guiding light today. John Durham has died.

As anyone who ever interacted with him knows, John was perfectly good.

No one had a bigger impact or played a more important leadership role in digital advertising over the past 25 years than John Durham. As far back as 1995, when the first websites were launching and it was every person for themselves, John was selflessly evangelizing our industry, not just his products, while leading sales at Softbank Interactive Marketing.

The people and entities that John touched, inspired, created and worked at -- day in and day out -- are innumerable. SFBig. IAB. iMedia. Upstream Group. Every entrepreneur, executive and leader in our industry owes so much to John. And, what was so important to John, and to our industry, was his 29 years as a professor at the University of San Francisco, training thousands of students in the world of advertising.

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The digital ad companies John led are our industry’s pioneers and “Bell Cows” -- Winstar, Pericles, Carat Interactive, Jumpstart and Catalyst -- and our industry was born, grew and matured in companies that John led.

What did John do for our industry? He was there when we defined the banner, the impression, and the standard insertion order. He helped us focus on creativity, strategy and customer service. He did this in spite of, and in contravention of, everyone else focusing on servicing the almighty buck.

John helped us pick ourselves up from the ground after the devastating bursting of the dot com bubble in 2000. His advice, counsel, guidance and cautions guided so many of us through that time, and so many other critical gates, gauntlets and moments that mattered over these many years.

I am crying as I write this. I am drinking the best red I could find. I know that is what John would want. I know that it is how he would want to be celebrated.

I also know that John would be uncomfortable being celebrated. John was a very modest and private man. He sought to keep his accomplishments and his interventions out of the sight of others. I will respect that.

However, as many of you may know, John was also a man of faith. He changed me that way. I have never known a more optimistic and faithful person than John Durham. He believed in the goodness of all of us. He believed in the goodness of humanity. He made me believe, and I promise him now that I will never lose faith. Thank you John Durham.

9 comments about "We Have Lost John Durham, Our Forever Guiding Light".
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  1. Warren Pickett from Blast PR, November 16, 2021 at 10:42 p.m.

    Thanks Dave, forever in our hearts and minds

  2. Dean Harris from www.tabbrands.com, November 17, 2021 at 9:13 a.m.

    Well said, Dave. He was the definition of a good man and an inspiration.

  3. Jeff J Lehman from Mentor Press LLC, November 17, 2021 at 11:23 a.m.

    Thanks, Dave. And thanks, John - for changing so many people's lives. 


    I first met John when we were repping Mapquest, the website he worked for. He was a positive influence to us at SoftBank then, and his influence only grew from that point on. To say he will be missed is an understatement...

  4. Jeff J Lehman from Mentor Press LLC, November 17, 2021 at 11:23 a.m.

    Thanks, Dave. And thanks, John - for changing so many people's lives. 


    I first met John when we were repping Mapquest, the website he worked for. He was a positive influence to us at SoftBank then, and his influence only grew from that point on. To say he will be missed is an understatement...

  5. Scott Kauffman from ALS Association, November 17, 2021 at 7:44 p.m.

    Thanks Dave.  You captured John's perfectly good legacy perfectly.

  6. Cecilia Lang from Firefly media, November 17, 2021 at 11:30 p.m.

    John was an inspiration and I will forever be grateful for the community he created, of which I'm lucky enough to be part of. 

    Thank you Dave for this message. 

  7. Greg Stuart from gregstuart.com, November 18, 2021 at 5:15 a.m.

    John's family should really know that he was truly loved and respected by all, from the very beginning of the Internet age.  It's easier to be respected or to be liked, but not always the same.  Well played John.  Miss you

  8. Stephen Dooley from GasBuddy, November 18, 2021 at 2:29 p.m.

    A tribute he would be proud of Dave!  Those of us who knew him were blessed to know him!

    May the road rise up to meet him,
    May the wind be always at his back,
    May the sun shine warm upon his face,
    And the rains fall soft upon his fields,
    And until we meet again John,
    May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

  9. Lana McGilvray from Purpose Worldwide, December 3, 2021 at 6:05 a.m.

    The Durham candle is burning bright this holiday Season in our homes (next to the wine) and forever in our hearts. Thank you Dave. 

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