The Sue Mengers Of The Mad Men Era: Judy Wald

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She’s tiny and blonde and ruled the ad biz in the Don Draper era. No one got their Mad Ave jobs through the NY Times Classifieds then–it was all about connections and insider intelligence. Judy knew everything and everyone and it was said that if she liked you it was worth an extra 25K in the days when 25K was worth something.

Ad veteran Harvey Bailey wrote about the ultimate madison avenue matchmaker on his blog last year:

I’m Punch. You’re Judy
“One of the most colorful advertising people I knew in New York was Judy Wald. She was the super-powerful headhunter who single-handedly put us creative people on the star system.

We used to joke that when Judy liked you it was worth an extra 25 big ones a year. She knew better than anybody how to recognize talent, and nurtured her people like your mother would if your mother were a therapist.

Judy knew everybody, and everybody knew her. She could walk by every reception desk in town and no one would question her. She had a gift for getting large agency creative directors to trust her, because she was such a good listener and judge of creative talent. Then it was as if she became your business agent, and told you where to interview, what approach to use, and who to be sure to say hello to.

Doyle Dane Bernbach used her regularly, and that was the best door-opener anyone could have in the ’80s. I loved Judy. She was an Auntie Mame character, and I’d try to make time to stick my head in her door every time I was in New York, not always successfully.

Two phone calls from Judy when I was in Chicago stand out. The first went like this: “Harvey, I need a heavy rubber writer.”  “What’s a heavy rubber writer?” “You know, a writer with a lot of tire experience.” “Oh.” “You know, someone like you.” That was Judy.

The other call I remember from Judy was when she was desperate for radio writers. Even Doyle Dane was looking for one. I asked Judy why. “Nobody in New York wants to do radio. It’s too lonely.
You just sit in your office and type. ” It was a real problem until it got fixed when one agency was smart enough to team an art director up with a writer for radio. After all, there are pictures in radio — pictures in the listener’s mind.

My favorite Judy story was told to me by my friend Marv Honig, the Vice Chairman of Doyle Dane. Judy was always trying to meet with Marv to sell him on her creative people. But Marv didn’t want to be cornered by her. Judy didn’t know it but they lived in the same apartment building, on the same floor.  They would meet almost every night at the incinerator chute down the hall, but Marv would never let on who he was. That went on for years.

Judy taught me at least two things. One, never quit your job until you have another one. No matter what you say, the sparkle is off when you’re out of work. And two, it’s okay to switch jobs often to get experience when you’re young, but be prepared. The phone stops ringing when you’re 40. Hang in where you are; advertising venerates youth.

I’m sorry that when my phone rings these days, it won’t be Judy Wald on the line, looking for a heavy peanut brittle writer. She sold her business, but she’s still in New York.”


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