At Pepsi-Cola you had a position many people would die
for: working with some of pop's biggest
icons. How did you get there?
I started as a marketing analyst in the research
department. After working on Mountain Dew for a while,
they moved me back to Pepsi to take on the
entertainment initiative, right after they brought on
Michael Jackson. I went on the road with him for 14
months on a world tour [for the Bad album].
From there I carved out this really great role where I
was the guy who was like the artist and repertoire people at
a record company who go out and find talent and act as
a coordinator for them.
Then you formed Aaron Walton Entertainment in 1989.
My first deal after Pepsi was for AT&T with
Whitney Houston, called the True Voice campaign. Then
I started working with more brands. I thought to
myself, Wow, I really like this. I'm doing really
well at it; my company is growing. I started in a
small apartment, then I was getting staff--it
became a real business.
You call Walton/Isaacson "the planet's most
interesting agency." Why?
My background is in traditional brand marketing, so we
look at everything very strategically. It's not
just in terms of, "Oh, isn't that a cool
celebrity to be linked with." It's about
what's the peak need of the brand. Sometimes
the plan is celebrity-driven, and sometimes it's
not. For us it always starts with figuring out what [the
brands] are trying to accomplish. And the fact that we
have a very diverse staff--gay, black, straight,
white--that makes a big difference.
How willing are companies to direct their advertising
budgets toward LGBT people?
Now more than ever, the smart companies are
realizing that the gay community has a large
disposable income; they're
well-educated--they're tastemakers. When
I started in marketing I never saw dollars specifically
for alternative lifestyle marketing. Now it's part of
the plan. I encourage all of the clients that I work
with to do it--not just because it's
right but because it makes great business sense.