Bozoma Saint John on leaving Uber for Endeavor: 'I've been working my whole life to get here'
In a marketing landscape where the CMO seems under siege, Bozoma Saint John is a rock star. The outgoing Uber executive announced Monday that she would be leaving the ride hailing company to join Endeavor, the entertainment conglomerate, as its new chief marketer.
The news set the tech and media space wagging, especially as Saint John leaves Uber just about a year after having started there. Ad Age spoke with Saint John to discuss her new gig, the gig she's leaving behind and what, in general, comes next for her. This has been edited for length and flow.
A lot of people were surprised when the news broke today. Were you expecting that?
I like that people are surprised. It means that Uber is on the right track. If people weren't surprised it'd be like, 'uh oh, she's not really doing anything'." I'm proud of the work I did even the year I was there. I'm still very much a fan of the company—there's no issue there.
So you never the got the sense from the new CEO that he sort of wanted to move on from you in that role?
Why leave after only a year?
The company has to right itself before the brand can begin to rise. As Uber works on its operations and getting the tech right, those are mandates that are not in my remit. And I really like to do my job. This really presents a unique opportunity for me to tell stories that I couldn't even before.
How do you see your mandate at Endeavor?
Endeavor is a brand itself that is relatively new. How do we elevate that? How do we craft that brand narrative so that it is encompassing of all these companies but also has its own identity?
It's a new entity but it comprises some older brands.
How do you take some of these legacy brands and move them forward? I want to help other CMOs, too. Endeavor global marketing services other brands. If I'm here and there's a solution any of the companies that are clients, part of my job is to make sure we are connecting it to what is WME doing, what is IMG doing? And come up with more 360 ideas or solutions for the brands.
As a company it does feel more in line with your background in entertainment and your sort of professional DNA than Uber did. Is that fair to say?
That's fair. It really does feel like I've been working my whole life to get here. Sports and music and fashion? God I get so excited about the potential. Getting into the granular piece of it, I'm going to figure it out. How do we connect what is happening from a WME standpoint to what's happening at Miss Universe? There's got to be solutions that make our own marketing that much more efficient.
Uber had run into trouble over its treatment of women. There's no shortage of issues in Hollywood as we've seen in the Me Too era. Do you see that cultural piece as part of your job?
Being a black woman has defaulted me to have to always talk about it and participate it. It's never been my job to fix it. I do feel responsibility to contribute in a significant way.
Do you get tired of having to answer that question? Does the media sort of pigeonhole you?
I wish I didn't have to be asked that question, but I'm glad that I am because it means we're all still talking about it. I joked before to somebody else: I've been a black woman my whole life. When I was a more junior executive, I know what that felt like. There were sometimes challenges because my voice wasn't big enough. I want to keep the fire stoked. Maybe now we'll get to a real solution. It won't be the burden of women of color or women alone to find the solutions. Everyone will say, "Enough is enough."