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Meet the Marketing Exec Who’s Been Making Her Mark at Apple, Uber and Netflix

Meet the Marketing Exec Who’s Been Making Her Mark at Apple, Uber and Netflix
Written by publishing team

In a personal board of directors, top business leaders talk about the people they turn to for advice, and how those people have shaped their perspective and helped them succeed. Previous installments of the series are here.

In the summer of 2020, Bozoma Saint John landed her dream job as Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix company

The streaming giant spends more than $2 billion annually on marketing. Entertainment “is my sweet spot,” she says.

The company, headquartered in Los Gatos, California, is the 10th employer and 6th in the industry during Mrs. St. John’s long career. She says bias has often prompted previous job changes.

She continues, “I hit a wall or a ceiling, and I couldn’t break through.” “As a black woman, I had to put in more effort to succeed.”

The Badass is now Netflix’s biggest black CEO.

Our supportive mentors reinforced Mrs. St. John’s strong determination to move forward. “My personal board members have played a role in helping me trust my instincts,” she says.

vital bits

  • Omar: 44
  • education: Holds a BA in English and African American Studies from Wesleyan University
  • family: Lil’s daughter, 12 years old
  • Secret talent: Expert seamstress made everything from skirts to curtains
  • Management motto: Get yourself all worked up, even if it’s glitter or burlap
  • Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, I am not just a decoration at all. My favorite ice cream is vanilla
  • heel height: 4″ high heels are just the right fit for me…which makes me 6’3″
  • A superpower you wish you had: instant transfer

The 44-year-old executive, who often goes by her nickname “Boz,” was born months before her father finished her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. .

Mrs. St John moved to six different locations before she was 13 years old. As a high school student in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I trained with an obstetrician and thought about becoming a doctor.

She also loved pop culture, but thought her hobby was “not something serious about it.” Mrs. St. John reconsidered her goal in medicine after being inspired by an African American Studies class during her first year at Wesleyan.

A 1999 graduate with a degree in English and African American Studies, he was appointed as an administrative assistant at Spike DDB, a New York advertising agency headed by film director Spike Lee. I was surprised when he accepted her recommendation that rising pop star Beyoncé Knowles appear in a PepsiCo commercial. company

“If he had chosen someone else, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” she notes. Mrs. St. John realized that her thoughts could be important, and that “the order of the click does not matter”. I eventually advanced to a senior account executive position at the agency.

In 2005, she joined the Pepsi unit as an assistant brand manager in multicultural marketing. While she was a marketing executive there years later, she helped orchestrate Beyoncé’s half-time appearance at the 2013 Super Bowl and an elaborate introductory Pepsi commercial.

Mrs. St. John attracted more attention once she became Apple company

Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Apple Music and iTunes.

She took an unusual approach to describing Apple’s redesigned streaming music service during the 2016 developer conference. “It was really scary,” she recalls. “My style was very different.”

Mrs. John urged the predominantly white audience to sing “Rapper’s Delight” as it swayed to the beat of hip-hop music. “Some of you guys don’t sing to the beat,” she scolded the men in the audience.

Her next assignment – as CEO of Uber Technologies company

— It didn’t last long. Mrs. St John, who was appointed in June 2017, resigned after a year.

She and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi disagreed over whether improved customer service should be the transportation giant’s top priority, she says. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment on its short tenure.

Then she held the top marketing position in Endeavor Group Holdings company ,

An entertainment company known for representing the biggest talents in Hollywood.

After that, “Joining Netflix was the biggest marketing challenge ever,” says Ms. St. John, who reports to co-CEO Ted Sarandos. “I market to many completely different individual titles and messages.”

Complicating matters further, the Netflix newcomer underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis within her first week. She resumed work from her bed days later.

Among its most valuable advisors are:

Brett O’Brien

General Manager, Gatorade, PepsiCo Inc.

Pepsi CEO appointed Ms. St. John because he was a Spike DDB customer. At first he oversaw it in the big food and drink maker.

But she doubted it would work. Unlike many of Pepsi’s peers, the junior assistant brand manager lacked an MBA degree.

Mr. O’Brien reassured her that ‘my background didn’t matter. I could do anything.’ His confidence in her abilities inspired at least one other industry key.

He says he also urged his student to “keep doing you”. As an older individual, Mr. O’Brien notes, “Boz allows her passion to shine through.” She did not “need to temper this passion to fit any perceived corporate standards”.

Ariana Huffington

Founder and CEO of Thrive Global

The executives met in 2016 at a consumer electronics trade show. Ms Huffington, a member of the Uber board of directors, eventually suggested that Ms. St. John consider leaving Apple to work with Uber.

“She needed to be in a place to let her whole personality shine through,” Huffington says. and “Uber needed its own gifts.”

The businessman linked Ms. St. John to Uber CEO at the time Travis Kalanick and supported her candidacy. He interviewed her at Mrs. Huffington’s home in Los Angeles.

Mr. Kalanick resigned shortly after Mrs. St John’s arrived, after months of scandal and setbacks at Uber.

luvfi ajay jones

Author, Speaker, and CEO of Awe Luv Media

Mrs. St. John sought out an introduction to Mrs. Jones in 2014 because she liked her comment about pop culture on her blog. The pair have been fast friends ever since.

“Luvvie has always encouraged me to keep making trouble,” says Ms. St. John. Her lawyer proved particularly helpful when the CEO left Uber frustrated.

“Am I just looking for trouble everywhere I go?” Mrs. St. John remembers asking herself. “I don’t always want to be the one who bothers me just because I’m walking in the door. It’s exhausting.” “Sometimes, I just want to fit in.”

Mrs. St. John must continue to make the best of trouble and transformative change because she “could not adapt, even if she tried.” Ms. Jones confirms. “She is a tall, dark-skinned black woman, often found in rooms not made for a person like her.”

The author’s latest book, The Professional Troublemaker, explores how to process and normalize fear. She believes that the best advice she has given Mrs. St. John is that she should eliminate fears and accept repeated requests for a TED Talk. Mrs. Jones told her that we grow by challenging ourselves to do the things we are afraid of.

Finally, Mrs. St. John gave her TED Talk in August 2021. The focus of her talk was on using her intuition every day.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Actor, Producer and Author

The pair were first identified about a decade ago when the popular Indian actor appeared on “The X Factor,” a televised talent show sponsored by Pepsi.

In 2018, Ms. St. John attended Mrs. Chopra’s wedding in India, where she married musician Nick Jonas. Today, the widowed Netflix director is still struggling to follow through on her friend’s suggestion that she open her heart and find love again.

Mrs. St. John’s husband, Peter St. John, died in 2013. Their daughter, Lille, was four years old.

“I know how to get what I want out of my career. I don’t know how to do it with love,” admits Mrs. St. John. “It is very painful and frightening.”

write to Joann S. Lublin at joann.lublin@wsj.com

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