Truth in Advertising, by John Kenney (2013)

Truth in Advertising: A NovelTruth in Advertising: A Novel by John Kenney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fin Dolan works for a successful New York ad agency. His job is a good one, although he's not exactly on their A-team. Fin is part of the creative group handling the lucrative, if not so glamorous, Snugglies Diaper account.

Indeed, if you read John Kenney's debut novel, "Truth in Advertising," you will gain amazing insight into the finer points of diapers, and the advertising thereof. Moreover, you'll be entertained at the behind-the-scenes machinations of how ads are produced. People will argue for hours over three seconds of a TV ad, and micromanage every word of copy.

I spent a number of years producing radio ads--many of them for agencies--and I can attest to the almost surreal, often ridiculous human behavior involved.

If "Truth in Advertising" were only about the people and processes behind diaper ads, this would be a good novel. What takes it to the next level is how Kenney deals with other people in Fin's life. He recently broke off his engagement to Amy, citing feet so cold they were frostbitten. Amy...well, she didn't take the sudden breakup very well to say the least. Also, Fin has an almost glacially slow courtship developing with Phoebe, one of his departmental assistants.

Toughest of all, Fin has to deal with his estranged family, trying to unite his brothers and sister, as their once-abusive father lay dying in a hospital.

Work becomes exciting when Snugglies Diapers announces a revolutionary new product that will knock their diaper competitors on their asses. Snugglies wants to debut their new super-diaper during the Super Bowl, leaving Fin and his crew just weeks to come up with a winning concept, write it, film it, edit it, and put together the final, polished product. The client's last-minute decision certainly doesn't make this easy.

The way Kenney interlaces Fin's professional and personal lives truly lends an unexpected heart to "Truth in Advertising." The resolution of Fin's issues with his father--and how his journey to forgiveness ends up helping an unlikely new friend--add an extra layer of poignancy to the story.

In many ways, Fin's assignment to the diaper account works as a lovely metaphor. Not to get too scatological, but diapers collect and hold on to unpleasant human byproducts. In their own way, Fin and his three siblings have been doing the same thing for years. They essentially quit communicating once their mother died, and they left home. There was too much grief and recrimination to be healed with a cute card and an annual birthday phone call.

By the end of "Truth in Advertising," Fin has reevaluated his priorities, and he has a new outlook on life. It's not that everything changes for him. He just chooses to view his life--and his priorities--in a different way. Why, it's almost like he'd been influenced by a really slick TV ad.

John Kenney's debut is smart, funny, and deeply human, and I highly recommend it.

(nb: I received an advance review copy from the publisher)

View all my reviews
Truth in Advertising: A NovelTruth in Advertising: A Novel by John Kenney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fin Dolan works for a successful New York ad agency. His job is a good one, although he's not exactly on their A-team. Fin is part of the creative group handling the lucrative, if not so glamorous, Snugglies Diaper account.

Indeed, if you read John Kenney's debut novel, "Truth in Advertising," you will gain amazing insight into the finer points of diapers, and the advertising thereof. Moreover, you'll be entertained at the behind-the-scenes machinations of how ads are produced. People will argue for hours over three seconds of a TV ad, and micromanage every word of copy.

I spent a number of years producing radio ads--many of them for agencies--and I can attest to the almost surreal, often ridiculous human behavior involved.

If "Truth in Advertising" were only about the people and processes behind diaper ads, this would be a good novel. What takes it to the next level is how Kenney deals with other people in Fin's life. He recently broke off his engagement to Amy, citing feet so cold they were frostbitten. Amy...well, she didn't take the sudden breakup very well to say the least. Also, Fin has an almost glacially slow courtship developing with Phoebe, one of his departmental assistants.

Toughest of all, Fin has to deal with his estranged family, trying to unite his brothers and sister, as their once-abusive father lay dying in a hospital.

Work becomes exciting when Snugglies Diapers announces a revolutionary new product that will knock their diaper competitors on their asses. Snugglies wants to debut their new super-diaper during the Super Bowl, leaving Fin and his crew just weeks to come up with a winning concept, write it, film it, edit it, and put together the final, polished product. The client's last-minute decision certainly doesn't make this easy.

The way Kenney interlaces Fin's professional and personal lives truly lends an unexpected heart to "Truth in Advertising." The resolution of Fin's issues with his father--and how his journey to forgiveness ends up helping an unlikely new friend--add an extra layer of poignancy to the story.

In many ways, Fin's assignment to the diaper account works as a lovely metaphor. Not to get too scatological, but diapers collect and hold on to unpleasant human byproducts. In their own way, Fin and his three siblings have been doing the same thing for years. They essentially quit communicating once their mother died, and they left home. There was too much grief and recrimination to be healed with a cute card and an annual birthday phone call.

By the end of "Truth in Advertising," Fin has reevaluated his priorities, and he has a new outlook on life. It's not that everything changes for him. He just chooses to view his life--and his priorities--in a different way. Why, it's almost like he'd been influenced by a really slick TV ad.

John Kenney's debut is smart, funny, and deeply human, and I highly recommend it.

(nb: I received an advance review copy from the publisher)

View all my reviews

About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
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