· Jan. 25, 2023
Photo: Antoinne Duane Jones

In her decade working in advertising, LaToya Shambo, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’07, noticed that the campaigns almost exclusively featured white talent. That disparity continued with the rise of bloggers and then influencers. “I saw a void in the industry. Who’s out there brokering brand partnerships for Black females? There wasn’t anything specifically for Black women,” she says.

So Shambo took on the mission herself, founding Black Girl Digital (originally Brooklyn Brand Lab) in 2016. “How can I get more people of color, more women of color, paid to do what they love? From a community perspective, I’m spreading the wealth through brand partnerships,” she says. 

Black Girl Digital connects brands—like Disney and the city of Boston—with influencers to market products and services through social media. In brokering these agreements, Shambo fights to ensure that Black influencers are paid fairly. While Black Girl Digital targets diverse audiences and works with Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQ influencers, 80% of the business is focused on Black women. Her impact is significant: In 2022, the company worked with over 300 Black creators, many more than a traditional agent, who might represent just five or six.

“Because the influencers truly enjoyed the experience, their audience was captivated.”

“Why are people basing value only on color, race, or ethnicity?” she asks. “Fairness is not complicated.”

For a three-month Disneyland project to promote the theme park to Black and brown consumers, Shambo developed a vision, strategy, and storyline that asked: How do you break up the day-to-day monotony of life in a pandemic? Her answer: Go to Disneyland! 

Local California-based influencers captured their own “day in the life” experience, from home to park, sharing stories on Instagram and TikTok. The centerpiece of the marketing strategy, a custom video overseen by Shambo, featured an influencer from out of town, capturing their flight, Airbnb accommodations, and an epic park experience including the reservation process, a park escort, food, and a playful day of adventure.   

The social media images and clips were authentic, fostering genuine interest. And thanks to Black Girl Digital’s campaign management tool, Disney could access metrics data in real time.

“Because the influencers truly enjoyed the experience, their audience was captivated,” Shambo says. “It drove action, and that’s really what we want to do.”