Latoya Shambo is strong, smart and spirited. But never call her sassy.
As an African American woman working in the advertising and marketing industries, (fields that could benefit from more diversity), Shambo makes it a point to speak out—which sometimes leads to her being called “sassy.” But she’s not being brash or cocky at all, she shares her opinions because she knows what she’s talking about, and Shambo thinks other women should assert their concerns when given the chance too.
Having worked for brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Google, Adidas and many other corporations, Shambo has become quite the advertising and marketing expert. So it’s no surprise that she launched her own companies—Brooklyn Brand Lab and Black Girl Digital—to provide marketing, adverting, and digital needs to local businesses and publishers worldwide.
Definitely a mover and shaker in the digital world, LaToya dropped so many gems during our interview. Read on and learn more about her companies, her #blackwomenatwork experiences and more.
Latoya: Brooklyn Brand Lab has evolved. Now, it’s solely focused on providing social media services to local businesses, not necessarily online businesses. We target a lot of the companies that are in the Brooklyn area and help them build out their social communities and manage their social media. [We help them with] customer service and if they have any other basic digital marketing needs, that’s essentially what we do.
EGL: You launched Black Girl Digital not too long ago. What inspired you to create this platform?
Latoya: My background is heavily in advertisement, specifically surrounding the ad network business. I noticed that there was a void in the marketplace for an ad network specifically designed for this niche audience—the black female. There are tons of brands and tons of advertisers that are constantly looking for ways to market and advertise to [black women], but it’s just not efficient for them, and they’re not getting the scale and the reach that they need for their campaign. So I said that I know a lot of the [black women], the influencers, the bloggers and content creators, and I also know a lot of the brands and agencies, so why don’t I just go ahead and create the companies that can fill this void? So Black Girl Digital evolved from there.
EGL: You stressed for more African American representation in advertisement. With the recent #PepsiFail and Tory Burch fiasco, how much more crucial is it to have more people of color influencing the decisions?
Latoya: When I say that I want more women of color and people of color in the industry, from that perspective, I am speaking specifically towards inside the building, in the corporate America side, not necessarily in the ads. I also work in corporate America in the advertisement industry and when I go to these advertising events, the lack of color at these events is astounding. You know I’ve been to so many panels and summits where they are trying to figure out the diversity elements in the industry and the big question is, “Where are the black people?” I answer it in the terms that, it’s not that the agencies or the industry doesn’t want black people in these offices, it’s just that the black people don’t see or understand the opportunities that exist, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re not learning about it in school or in college or they’re so caught up in what’s on the surface that they’re not doing due diligence—it comes both ways. So in efforts to do my part, I’ve created “Black in Advertising” an industry list compiled of professional black people in the industry. Black in Advertising is about fostering and building meaningful relationships within our industry and educating those coming in.
(Sign up for Black in Advertising here: https://goo.gl/forms/J1K9lIStraTuX7152)
As far as the brands trying to be immersed in this black culture [laughs], I have no comment. It’s very interesting, but I’m more about connecting these agencies with the black audience and having them understand that you can’t advertise just the total market and think that you’re reaching us because that’s not the case. You actually should advertise in the spaces that we are, which is Fashion Bomb Daily or Everything Girls Love. These are sites that we read every day. We’re not necessarily going to Refinery 29 every single day. It’s just an educational gap that needs to be filled.
Latoya: This one statement was, “Man Latoya, you’re so bold. To be the only black woman in the room, you just speak up.” Then I had to look at the young lady and say, ‘What do you mean? Why does me being black have to be the standing factor in speaking up? I know what I’m talking about, so I should speak up. If you knew what you were talking about, you should also speak up’ [laughs]. It was so weird that me being black made it an interesting fact.
This next statement I’ve experienced most of my career—’You’re so sassy.’ Like what? What does that mean? [laughs] I don’t understand what you mean about me being sassy, because I again speak up, I’m professional, I don’t use any curse words, I make you feel a way. This person over here is using all kinds of curse words and being rude and disrespectful, but I’m sassy? It’s been my entire professional career.
EGL: What do you think is the biggest mistake women make when working in male dominated workplaces.
Latoya: Not speaking up or feeling as if their opinion doesn’t matter, but it does. It doesn’t even matter if it’s more male or if it’s white or whatever it is, we should be comfortable speaking our opinions. If you are an expert and you truly know what you’re talking about, then you should be able to stand up in a room with anybody and say, ‘Hey, this idea could work,’ or ‘Hey, maybe we should try it this way versus that way because this is x,y and z’ and not be afraid to push the bar.
EGL: There’s this theory called The Queen Bee Syndrome. Basically, it concluded that women in executive positions don’t want to help other women reach their level of success because they want to remain unique. Do you agree?
Latoya: I would have to say that it depends on the industry. I don’t see if often in the advertising industry because we have a flat organization. It’s not necessarily I sit on top of you and all you report to me. It’s more like we’re all associate directors and the next step up is to be a director and so on. It does get a little challenging when you’re trying to reach the C-Club, but in advertising the organization is relatively flat. But what I experienced in the music industry, the two seconds that I was there, that is very much the case. A lot of women are intimidated or scared that they’re going to lose their role if they train someone to be better than them or whatever the case may be. It’s less likely for them to scoot over and give you a seat at the table because they don’t want to lose their seat at the table, but again it’s all relative to the industry that people are in.
EGL: At GLE, I remember you saying that you showed up to a job interview with cornrows. I know I’m guilty of putting my natural hair in a sleek ponytail when I go on job interviews. What gave you the courage to do that?
Latoya: You have to set the tone. Coming into a predominately white environment, I really didn’t want anyone to think that I’m trying to blend in or be like [anyone else]. I am who I am and you have to accept me for who I am. Whether it’s me coming in here with cornrows and speaking my mind, you’re going to know who I am one way or the other. My name and who I am is very important to me so I just have to bring it from start to finish.
EGL: You wanted to be an A&R. When that didn’t work out, you pursed advertising. What message do you have for millennials who feel discouraged when their plans don’t fall through?
Latoya: What do you like to do? What are you good at? What will you tolerate? What won’t you tolerate? That’s how I navigate my career, and that’s how I navigate my life. I was very fortunate to figure it out early in my college career, but interning really helped me weed out a lot of the crap. I don’t tolerate rudeness from any level, you can be the CEO, the CRO, the assistant—I will not work in an environment where I feel that the culture is going to bring me down. I’m generally a happy person every single day and I would like it to stay that way. As I was interning in the music business, I was like this is way too negative, nobody wants to teach me, I can’t learn, so what am I going to do? Well, what am I good at? What do I like? And I started analyzing all those factors and realized that I like commercials and advertising, so what can I do? I like marketing so how can I make all this work together? I ended up switching my major and my career, and it was the best thing I did in my entire life.
EGL: So basically, people need to find what they’re good at and make that fit into the industry they want to work in.
Latoya: One thing about the industries now is that there are so many elements to one company. A lot of skills are transferable from industry to industry. So if one person is like, ‘Uh, I went to school for finance but accounting is boring.’ Actually, it’s not that boring if you’re in the advertising industry. Finance is needed in every single industry; you just have to find the right company. You can go do finance at Google and be living the dream. People don’t think about it from that perspective, so they’re always like, ‘I cannot find a job.’ I hear it all the time. ‘I went to school for journalism, I went to school for PR or I can’t find a job in the industry.’ What industry? Media. That industry is so big, but you think so small. There are so many opportunities, but you have to think about your skills and how you can apply them to different roles.
That’s a word for somebody today! Latoya is moving in silence for now, but she has some big projects coming this fall. So stay tuned.
Interview By: Ericka Smith, Entertainment Editor