Julie Roehm Talks To BusinessWeek

This whole, uh, sordid affair, is a huge cautionary tale for anyone thinking of leaping into a new job. BusinessWeek has a good story detailing how things began–and ended for Roehm during her tenure at Wal-Mart.

As fall approached, the deadline for the agency review was looming. On Oct. 15, Wal-Mart finally settled on one of Roehm’s top picks, DraftFCB (IPG ). At the time, both Roehm and agency chief Howard Draft were unaware that someone at his firm had placed an advertisement in an industry publication, celebrating the clinching of several awards. The ad featured a lion mounting its mate with the tag line: “It’s good to be on top.” Not surprisingly, the ad did not go over well inside Wal-Mart. Roehm thought: “Oh my God. This is the last thing we need.” (Wal-Mart would ditch the agency three days after firing Roehm.)
Even small triumphs were turning to ashes. Roehm had helped conceive a TV ad for the Christmas shopping season. It featured a middle-age couple opening presents. The woman, sitting on the husband’s lap, opens a box to reveal a red silk nightgown. With his teenage kids and in-laws looking on, the man grins happily. His wife loves the gown. And Wal-Mart, says Roehm, loved the ad. At first, anyway. Then, she says, the company got word of a complaint from a consumer who saw the ad while watching Desperate Housewives; shortly after, the ad was pulled. Roehm couldn’t believe it. “With a company as big as that,” she says, “you are never going to satisfy 100% of the people.”

I can speak from experience here–and I also once worked for hicks in a southern town–if you’re looking to take a new gig, always, always do your due diligence on a company, its leadership, its culture–and research everything you can find out about a company aside from its press releases. Roehm screwed up on the job, but her biggest screw-up was taking the Wal-Mart job in the first place.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.