Judy Wald helped administer shock treatments in a psychiatric ward and worked as a comparison shopper at Macy’s before finding a career that suited her: talent spotter for the advertising business.
As a headhunter for ad agencies, she focused on creative people, those who could write a snappy headline, coin a solid-gold phrase or conceive the perfect imagery. After setting up her own New York talent-search firm in the mid-1960s, she quickly established herself as a familiar Madison Avenue figure, known for knowing everybody who mattered in her sphere.
She relished her renown. “I want to be a household word like Tampax or Betty Crocker,” she told New York magazine in 1968.
When she summoned advertising people to breakfast or lunch, most knew they should show up, even if they weren’t looking for a new job. She persuaded agency bosses they needed to pay up for scarce talent.
“She was our broadcasting station,” said Jerry Della Femina, an early client who became one of New York’s best-known creative advertising executives. “She told the world we existed. She made us worth more than we probably were.”