Here Comes the Roehm Again

Think You're Burned Out on Unruly Julie? 'New York' Bets It Can Tempt You

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NEW YORK ( -- "Note to Ad Age," wrote an unnamed New York reader in the comments section of our website on a Jan. 24 story about Julie Roehm's lawsuit against Wal-Mart. "Please don't keep Julie alive in the press. We've really had enough, even if Julie doesn't completely agree." Echoed Holly from Michigan, "I feel that I keep getting The National Enquirer sent to me instead of Ad Age. Some enquiring minds just don't care."
Photo: Scott Breithaupt

Julie Roehm: Media is still feasting on details of ousted Wal-Mart marketing chief's story.

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Excerpt: 'Snakes in the Garden'
'New York' Scores First Post-Wal-Mart-Scandal Interview With Howard Draft

The exhaustion was clear, the disgust palpable. After weeks of gorging on Aston Martins, Nobu dinners, lap-sitting, inappropriate relationships, "change agents" and humping-lion ads, dedicated followers of Madison Avenue goings-on were all full up on the biggest scandal to hit the industry since Shona Seifert's jail-cell door slammed shut. Yet, two months after Ms. Roehm and Sean Womack were unceremoniously sacked by the retailer, sparking all manner of media coverage, New York is betting you have room for dessert -- and a nauseatingly phallic article title.

"Snakes in the Garden," a 6,000-word rehash of l'affaire Roehm, hits newsstands today. Like many of New York's best articles, the piece is a cautionary tale in not saying everything that comes into one's mind, and is probably most notable for getting the first interview with Howard Draft since Wal-Mart fired his agency. The article humanizes the larger-than-life Mr. Draft, provided your definition of human includes dating "global models" (flavors: Italian and French), wearing a Patek Philippe (a really expensive watch, Google tells me), and celebrating your $120 million sell-off to Interpublic with a Gulfstream IV cross-country tour of golf courses with a septet of friends.

This year's model
We also learn whether Mr. Draft loves his ex-wife -- "Oh yeah," he tells Mr. Fishman -- and answers one of the most vexing questions behind the success of the direct-mail king: Just how does that Ripon College grad (it's in Wisconsin) get all that sweet model action? "It's not because I'm cute," Mr. Draft wants you to know. "I don't wake up in the morning thinking I'm winning them over with my charm. It's probably because I've been successful."


For some reason, it seems Mr. Draft has decided that he's "rethinking showy," a flicker of personal betterment that's dismissed pretty much out of hand. It comes just a few lines after we learn how Mr. Draft dealt with the misery caused by the Wal-Mart scandal. The junk-mail playboy cushioned the blow with a trip to St. Barts accompanied by his French model girlfriend, a toiler for the Ford agency whose work includes a nude photo on Mr. Draft's cellphone, which, of course, was shown at some point during the review to Mr. Womack and Ms. Roehm -- maybe at the Peninsula Hotel, where they all smoked cigars.

It should be noted that Wal-Mart has something of a conservative culture, and author Steve Fishman emphasizes that some of this behavior clashed with Bentonville's idea of the way things should be done. Hence the December sacking of Ms. Roehm and Mr. Womack, whom Mr. Fishman caught up with over lunch at Le Bernardin last month. They drank Veuve Clicquot; Ms. Roehm, we learn, detected a nutty flavor. "Almonds," she observed. And almonds, disappointingly, is about all we get out of Ms. Roehm in this piece, perhaps because she's already been laid so bare by this mess. As far as news goes, we do get a bit of screeching from Bentonville way about "an inappropriate relationship" between Ms. Roehm and Mr. Womack and learn of an e-mail between the two provided by Mr. Womack's wife (from whom he is separated) that may or not be some evidence of that relationship, which both Mr. Womack and Ms. Roehm deny.

The facts around the "inappropriate relationship" meme are no less hazy after the New York article, or for that matter a 2,000 word yawner that appeared in BusinessWeek last week, which speaks to the abysmal way that Wal-Mart's thank-you-sir-may-I-please-have-another PR "strategy" has been applied to this crisis. The company, no stranger to largely avoidable bludgeonings in the media, has provided virtually no information, creating a vacuum that's been filled with all manner of salacious nattering in New York and other outlets, such as this factoid: The much-discussed lap that once balanced Ms. Roehm's posterior during the infamous Nobu dinner belongs to Tony Weisman, former business-development chief at DraftFCB and now head of Digitas' Chicago office.

Oh stop. We know you're still reading, Holly from Michigan.
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