#Selfie With My Hero: Our Publisher Spends The Afternoon With Ad Industry Trailblazer Aaron Walton
There was a young man who imagined a world that validated his existence. He saw a future for himself full of opportunities and acceptance. He had big dreams and planned on seeing them through. When his friends wished for a career on the football field or headlining a hip-hop tour, he imagined being in the corner office calling the shots and signing the checks. That was over three decades ago. And that young man was me. Dreaming outside of the box wasn’t the norm. Challenging stereotypes and assumptions were an uphill battle. The media, advertising specifically, did very little to counter those cookie-cutter stereotypes.
So much has changed on how people of color are represented in the media in recent years. Diversity is at the top of every chief marketing officer’s agenda. There’s not a consumer category lacking a face of color in their advertising efforts. Some get it wrong, fortunately many get it spot-on. People believe what they see. Most importantly, they are able to see in themselves career choices and opportunities unimaginable to their parents and grandparents.
One of the heroes on the front line of the struggle for inclusion is Aaron Walton, co-founder of Walton Isaacson (WI), an international advertising agency. But don’t call him a hero. He credits his awesome team for being his village. Together, they work to bring diversity and inclusion to the brands.
Walton started his agency out of necessity. “The old way was dying,” he explains. “It was lacking a modern approach to a changing industry.”
Walton, 55, dressed in all black, is a towering figure well over six feet. His slim physique is the perfect hanger to accent his love of fashion and attention to detail. Today, he is in the New York offices of WI, on an unseasonably warm day in February, taking over the conference room as his working quarters. Wearing Mizrahi pants and a crew neck sweater by Sands, he goes to the south facing windows of the 11th floor Chelsea office opening them to let the air and sunlight in making the bright walls an even more intense hue of tangerine. For a brief moment, there is an awkward silence. I am star struck and suddenly find it hard to begin the interview. It’s the equivalent of the Beyhive seeing their queen perform live at the Formation World Tour. In what I soon learn is ‘the Aaron way,’ he takes the lead and says, “Let’s just have a conversation.”