Adland, Now With More Heart

Debut Novel Portrays Millennial Minion as Underdog

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When industry vets decide it's time to add "author" to their bank of titles, readers often end up with one of two treatments: a chronological account of four decades in the biz, peppered with self-congratulatory life lessons and newly minted catchphrases that underscore one final attempt at creating buzz; or, a vindictive roman à clef bursting with big-city characters you can identify at the drop of a client. What a welcome surprise that Dan Wald's first novel is neither. In fact, it was born out of a daydream he had on his way to work.

Mr. Wald's 25 years in marketing, working with a host of clients from McDonald's to Unilever, have culminated in "Ad Asylum," a charming, breezy read about a fallen ad agency with little hope for new business, and the young account executive emboldened to lead the pitch that can turn things around. Naturally, his companion in the coup is a quirky-hot female creative, and the book contains nod after nod to Mad Ave agencies of yore. (Mr. Wald sets his players in a fictional shop called Halliday & Vine.)

At the book's release party earlier this week, appropriately held in a midtown Manhattan pub off Madison, Mr. Wald called it his "underdog story." He spoke to a crowded room of reporters, family and colleagues. (By day, Mr. Wald is a group account director for Joule Worldwide, an independent agency within the Group M network.) He was introduced by none other than Julie Roehm, a fellow graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who played hostess for the evening and whose praise for "Ad Asylum" gets top billing on the front cover. Ms. Roehm agreed to help Mr. Wald push the book as a friendly gesture following his decision to self-publish with, an option that brought his manuscript to press in a snappy two months. She liked the book's affirmation of a life well-spent in advertising.

"What's great about the book is that it embraces the industry," she said. "Anyone can look at this business and tear anyone and anything apart. It's more fun when you find somebody who can embrace the business with all its flaws. It makes you love it all the more."

Having been the subject of industry scandal herself just a few years ago, Ms. Roehm admits to receiving monthly recommendations for publishing her own marketing experience. But is a tell-all on the horizon?

"Maybe someday, but it's not a top priority for me right now. The biggest issue is sitting down and actually writing it. I've got a husband, two kids, a dog and a consulting business! When I do find the time, I'll absolutely need a ghostwriter."

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Ad Asylum here.