When walking into Walton Isaacson Advertising Agency, I always feel my spirit immediately elevated. First, the architectural design of the high beam ceilings, the wide open space, the gorgeous art work, and fresh flowers gracing the receptionist’s desk embrace me. Next, all the employees radiate a glow of contentment and are extremely friendly. Finally, there is Mr. Aaron Walton, co-founder of Walton Isaacson, a true gentleman of creative brilliance, whose warmth, fluent articulation, and passion for his craft set the magnanimous tone for an interview.
Walton Isaacson lives by a motto that encapsulates their philosophy for reaching the multicultural market place which has earned them an unprecedented five wins in six years of the SOTY (Supplier of the Year) award, given by the Southern California Minority Business Development Council. Walton Isaacson is an independently held, minority owned, full-service advertising and marketing agency.
Aaron Walton, co-founder, and partner told The Hollywood360, “Working together, Walton Isaacson has taken on the Lexus covenant, which states that the brand will “treat each customer as we would a guest in our home,” and made that come alive for the multicultural community.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Walton and his staff at Super Bowl Sunday, January 2015. I too felt “like a guest in their home” because of the welcoming and gracious interaction I experienced with all the members of the company. I was also invited to the “Lexus Verses and Flow” television show tapings for TV One, directed by Andrew Logan, the composer of the “Lexus NX Turbo” commercial. I wrote articles on both of these events.
I hadn’t spoken with Aaron Walton in a year or so and wanted to hear about what Walton Isaacson’s newest developments were in the advertising field. In 2016, Walton Isaacson launched the multimedia campaign for their client Spalding, celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Basketball called “Honor the Game.” Spalding has been the official basketball of the NBA for 33 years.
“Walton Isaacson separated themselves from the competition by delivering strategic thinking that was rooted in consumer insights as well as an innovative creative approach that will break through the clutter,” said the client’s VP of Global Brand Marketing, Kenyatta Bynoe.
Spalding produced 125 limited-edition commemorative basketballs, which would be part of the visuals for the campaign during activations at various games and hoops destinations nationwide. The balls were given to “key members of the basketball community, influencers, and partners of the Spalding brand.”
My Interview with Aaron Walton.
The Spalding Campaign.
The Hollywood 360: Please talk about the Spalding Campaign.
Aaron Walton: What Spalding did was to tap into the true sports fan’s understanding and love of the game of basketball. This campaign is about celebrating fans. Someone told me the story… Spalding is the official basketball of the NBA and at one point the NBA was looking around for another company to sponsor them. However, the feedback from a lot of the players was, ‘Are you kidding me, I’ve dreamed of making it to the NBA and having my own Spalding ball!’ It was a true testament to the brand.
The Hollywood 360: Like you had said before, the Spalding brand is iconic. This brings up the topic of… these days there’s so little appreciation for history, for celebrating something that is being around for 125 years.
Aaron Walton: You are so right about that. One of the things I learned from our Lexus client is the concept of Kaizen. It means the constant evolution of improvement and constantly going back and looking at what has worked in the past and what could be better. It’s not perceived as a negative thing to look back, but it is about how we can learn and how we can improve to make it better the next time. If that is philosophically how you feel and what you believe, then you are constantly going to be looking at yourself, at campaigns, at whatever it is in your vision at that moment…it will help you to get to the next level and what you ultimately want to achieve.
I think that’s how greatness comes. When you can objectively evaluate how things work or don’t work, and move forward. It’s just the way productive and smart people work.
The Hollywood 360: How do you work that philosophy in at Walton Isaacson?
Aaron Walton: We adopt that philosophy everyday. We call it the “wrap-up”, where we would sit back after a campaign or an event so it’s fresh in our minds and evaluate the initiative. And that sets the foundation on how we move forward.
What made me think about that is a recent campaign that we worked on with Lexus for the LGBTQ consumers segment in partnership we with OUT Magazine. It was a program called Icons and Ingénues.
So we paired three icons with ingénues who told their stories. These are all digital videos.
We told the story of a transgender woman and the challenges that she faced. When asked what resources she had to support her, she answered, ‘There wasn’t social media. I was about no fear. And I was gung-hoe. Then she gave the advice, ‘If an opportunity is placed before you, walk through that door.’
The Hollywood 360: How is this being used?
Aaron Walton: This was a campaign that we developed in celebration of the OUT 100. We picked honorees who had amazing stories and we wanted to tell their stories. Tracey Norman was very famous because she was on a box of Clairol in the 1970’s. She was the model. She was transgender and no one knew. Then someone outed her. She lost the gig, but has since come back now in 2017 stronger than ever! We worked with our HERE media partner to help tell these stories. To Lexus’ credit, we shot these beautiful vignettes to help people understand how important these stories were to all of us.
The Hollywood 360: You have worked in the advertising business for quite a long time. Why do you think customers lose faith in established brands?
Aaron Walton: I think that when customers lose faith in established brands, it is because the brands stop listening to them. Consumers have gotten so politically aware, and I don’t mean politics like Democrat versus Republican. Consumers have become aware of how they move throughout the world and how that has an impact on the people around us. It’s like a domino effect. So they have become very responsible about the choices that they make, and how those choices they make, and the brands that they choose. Whether it be purchasing a bag of Cheetos or a car, these choices say something about who we are. It has an impact on the environment, it has an impact on how people are getting compensated and the consumer pays attention to that and how the companies that they support are reaching out and tapping into the entire fabric of the community.
I think that when brands really help articulate their full story… how we treat and respect the people that work for us, how we treat the vendors and partners that support us, it helps reinforce the decision we make to purchase a brand beyond the product efficacy.
The Hollywood 360: How has technology impacted the advertising field?
Aaron Walton: We’ve gotten sophisticated because of technology. We can find out things much faster. We understand how to use technology to engage consumer behavior, to better understand consumer purchase behavior. The way that bigger brands have lost the consumers is when they have lost sight of what matters to the consumers and have stopped paying attention and listening to them. Companies can’t trivialize big issues that have serious meaning to consumer. Pepsi learned that the hard way in their most recent ad campaign, and as a result, they had to pull it.
There’s a good book to read, “It Starts With Why” by Simon Sinek. It talks about how everyone in an organization needs to understand why their place exists. What is their purpose and what’s their reason for their purpose? That insight not only has to be clear with the CEO but the receptionist too. Because everything people do has to fit into that understanding of why their organization exists at a fundamental level. And if you do articulate that mission, your team will work more cohesively … from an organizational standpoint, you are sharing more information, you have a group with a common goal and understanding. People are working smarter and working together and understanding why they are doing it.
The Hollywood 360: That espouses to your quote, “We are the most interesting advertising agency …”
Aaron Walton: One of our big points of difference is that we believe as an agency is that diversity is a key to innovation. Innovation is ultimately what drives brands and makes companies profitable. And the science supports this theory. For example companies that have more women on the board are 13% more profitable than those that do not have that type of diversity. Companies that have more diversity within the organization tend to out-perform those that don’t. One of the reasons is because when we have people who are not like ourselves, we tend to work harder to help them understand our points of view. It makes us dig deeper to get the support we need to push our ideas forward. That won’t happen if everyone thinks the same. Ultimately, you have a more compelling and relevant message for a broader range of consumers.
The Hollywood 360: How does Walton Isaacson work with diversity and multicultural campaigns?
Aaron Walton: We understand the impact that culture can have on consumer attitudes and behavior. We celebrate those differences rather than minimize them, and we help clients understand the nuances that make us proud of who we are. Even within the diverse cultures, there are nuances that you have to understand. A white 19-year old millennial woman who grew up in Malibu is not going to have the same life experiences as a black 19- year old millennial woman who grew up on the Southside of Chicago. It is critical for brands and for marketing organizations to understand what those differences are and celebrate them rather than run away from them.
The Hollywood 360: You seem to be approaching everything from a deep, spiritual philosophical place rather than just go for money.
Aaron Walton: One is short-term and one is a long-term approach in how to build a brand. The most successful brands have taken a long term look at how they want to take the journey with consumer. The brand has to be proactive in making sure that the consumers understand that they are being authentic and honest in their efforts to connect with them. If it’s about, ‘I just want your money now and not interested in a long term relationship with them it will be a very short honeymoon.
The Hollywood 360: What are the trends now in marketing and advertising?
Aaron Walton: From a marketing standpoint the media landscape is changing by the minute. We spend as much time as to trying to stay ahead, as we are just getting the work out the door. What has been great about the technology and social media is that it allows you to be more efficient in your targeting. So when you’re on Facebook for example, you are getting an ad because of behaviors that you have shown on that platform… You are receiving ads that are more relevant to you vs. receiving a lot of “noise”. From an advertising point, you can actually pay base on actual clicks, which is much more effective model instead paying a premium to a distributor without a viewer guarantee. There is also beacon technology that tracks consumers. If you click on a perfume ad for example the technology allows us to physically track where the consumer goes to purchase the product and how long and where you were in Macy’s when you went to purchase the perfume. This type of intelligence helps brands better serve the consumers and brands alike.
Technology is as fundamental now as television was 20 years ago. There are some brands that have captured the essence of social media and how to use it better than others. One of the challenges for brands and social media is the technology puts the consumer in charge, so there’s a level of control that you have to give up. It used to be easy to protect your image because you controlled the message, now you put it out in the world, and the world is going to have something to say about it.
That’s the good news and that’s the bad news.
About Walton Isaacson
Founded in 2005 by marketing innovators Aaron Walton, Cory Isaacson and partner Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Walton Isaacson (WI) provides strategic and creative solutions to some of the world’s largest and most aggressive brand marketers. This innovative agency model marries award-winning, full-service advertising, digital and social capabilities across multiple disciplines, providing value and efficiency to partners. WI’s marketing specializations include Sports, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Experiential and Branded Content, as well as cultural expertise across General Market, Black, Hispanic and LGBT consumer segments. WI is headquartered in Chicago and Los Angeles, with additional offices in New York and Miami.
For more information on Walton Isaacson go to: http://waltonisaacson.com