Strong Feelings

Going Rogue with Nandini Jammi

Episode Summary

What if you built a movement powerful enough to defund hate groups online, won one of the most prestigious awards in advertising, and then had your co-founder tell you to stop taking credit? If you were Nandini Jammi, you’d get even louder.

Episode Notes

What if you built a movement powerful enough to defund hate groups online, won one of the most prestigious awards in advertising, and then had your co-founder tell you to stop taking credit? If you’re Nandini Jammi, you’d get even louder.

Nandini Jammi is a brand safety advocate and co-founder of Sleeping Giants, where her campaigns got major advertisers to stop funding sites like Breitbart. Now she’s co-founded a new company called Check My Ads, where she works with Fortune 500 companies to ensure that their ads aren’t showing up on extremist sites. She is also a writer, speaker, and activist full of practical advice for how to stand up for yourself in the workplace.

"I think that when you take a stand on something that is important, you will always have people who disagree with you. And that's fine. And you should let them disagree with you...if you're out there creating change and fighting for what you believe in, you're doing something right if people disagree with you. It can feel a kick in the gut sometimes when people that you respect don't agree with you. It's always important, I think, to understand their perspective, understand why you disagree with it, understand why they disagree with you, and use that to push your work forward."

—Nandini Jammi, co-founder of Check My Ads

We talk about:

Plus: A new segment called “You got this!” This season, Sara leaves each episode with a challenge to our listeners. This week’s is: “What is your boldest, most in-your-face thing that you honestly wish you could say out loud? What is one small risk that you could take this week to make that happen?” If you want to take that challenge on, head over to


Episode Transcription

Nandini Jammi  0:00 I knew that I had to stay in this work. That if I left, the world would be losing something big. So I guess that's what gave me the courage to stay. 

Sara Wachter-Boettcher  0:22 Hey, y'all, welcome back to Strong Feelings. My name is Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and I'm so glad to be back after a year hiatus. Yikes! A whole year! So um, anything interesting happen since last February? Okay, so if you are a longtime listener, then you know, my co-host Katel LeDû is very much missing from this episode. She stepped away from the show, but after this past year, I knew I needed to bring it back. By the way Katel if you're listening, I miss you, I love you, and I know I'm gonna do right by you with this new season of shows. 

So I don't want to spend this whole episode reminding everyone about the pandemic, like we're all in it, we all get it. But the past year has put so much stress on people and particularly on women who've taken the brunt of the job losses, and the professional setbacks, and the childcare burdens....and that's one of the biggest reasons I knew it was time to bring Strong Feelings back. Because over the past year, I have been building up a little business called Active Voice where we do coaching and training programs for people in tech and design who want to not just be leaders, but also leaders who can speak up for justice and equity in their work. And that means I've been coaching so many people through this pandemic. And let me tell you what I keep hearing: I keep hearing about how exhausted people are. Burned out, hanging on by a thread. Even the ones who have more free time because they're not commuting. Even the ones who don't have kids disrupting their Zoom meetings every six minutes. Even the ones whose jobs have been stable this whole time, they’re burned out because what we're going through is traumatic, and there's just not any space yet to process all of that trauma. We're still in it, we're still trying to keep our heads above water, we're still trying to, like, submit promotion packets, and close our wage gaps, and shake off being called abrasive on our performance reviews, and trying to find space to do some good work even amid all of this. It's a lot. 

And that is why I'm here. Because just like always, I want to talk to the people who are stepping up and being bold, who are bringing radical change in their workplaces into their industries, who are really thinking about the intersection of the work they do and things like equity and justice. People who are tapping into their strength. But I also know we need more than strength right now. At least I do. We can't just grit our teeth through this moment. At least not if we want to still have teeth by this time next year, which I don't know about you, but I sure do...I would prefer to still have teeth. 

So this show was called Strong Feelings for a reason. If we're not talking about, you know, our feelings, all of the parts that are hard, the grief, the trauma, the hopelessness, all the stuff that sneaks in and we're not looking, then I'd be doing you all a disservice. And so that's what we're going to be focused on-- not just the strength that people have, but also how they feel about it, how they think about it, how they make it through, starting with today's guest. 

So today's guest is somebody I'm so excited to bring onto the show. It's Nandini Jammi, and oh boy, I cannot wait to share my interview with her with all of you. So she's the co-founder of Sleeping Giants, which led these massive campaigns to get advertisers to stop spending their ad dollars on hateful, racist websites, effectively cutting off their financing. That got her focused on fixing the ad tech industry with her new company Check My Ads, which is a brand safety consultancy, and she's going to tell us all about what that means and what that does. 

But Nandini is so wonderful. She's a fiery advocate for justice. She's not afraid to tell big advertisers what's what. And she's someone who never really saw herself in that role as the person with the big bold voice. In fact, she almost didn't do it. She almost didn't even take credit for co-founding Sleeping Giants, which we're going to talk about as well. But what she decided was that her message was too important to keep quiet about, and I agree. So let's get to that interview.

Interview: Nandini Jammi

SWB 4:18 All right, folks, it's time to get to our guest today. Like I said in the intro, today I'm talking with Nandini Jammi one of the cofounders of Sleeping Giants, and now a cofounder at Check My Ads. Nandini, you were one of the first people on my list when I started planning this new season of the show, and I am really, really hyped to have you here. So welcome to Strong Feelings. 

NJ 4:36 Thank you so much. That's so cool to hear. 

SWB 4:39 Well, yeah, I mean, I've been paying a lot of attention to your work in your career for a few years now because you've done so many awesome things. So one of the things you're known for is having successfully pushed advertisers to stop funding, you know, racism and hate. So leading campaigns that get advertisers to stop spending their dollars on Breitbart, for example. I read that when you did that, their ad revenue dropped 90%. You've done similar stuff with folks like Tucker Carlson and Bill O'Reilly, Fox News….And there's so many other campaigns and examples like that. So I'd love to start with how that happened. Can you tell us the story of the birth of Sleeping Giants and how you got started with this?

NJ 5:20 I have been working in marketing for my entire career. And I was working as head of growth for a small tech startup in 2016, at the time of the elections, and I had actually, like, won one, like only one Google ad campaign at that time. I didn't have a ton of experience, but I generally knew how advertising worked. But anyway, I went to visit Breitbart for the first time after the elections, just kind of to see for myself what this website was about. I’d been hearing about it so much. And, you know, I was expecting to see a lot of vile headlines, but the first thing that I noticed as a marketer was that it was just plastered in ads from companies that I shop with. They were retargeting me around the web, including this website. 

So I head was like, well, this website is being funded by these brands, probably without their knowledge, because when you run a Google ad campaign, no one really knows where their ads are going. They just spend the money and then it just is placed automatically for them, algorithmically for them. So the first thing that I thought to myself was, what if we could all just turn off our Breitbart ads, then this website wouldn't make money anymore. 

So what I did was, the first thing I did was I wrote a Medium article that very night, and I was like, "Hey, performance marketers," and I wanted it, I wanted it to be something that performance marketers specifically read. "Don't ask for permission to block Breitbart from your media buy, just do it." And I was like, "Hey, you know what this website is run by this guy, Steve Bannon. He's a really bad guy. And here's how he's been making money. Here's how Breitbart is making money. All we have to do to stick it to him is block our ads. Just add this website to your exclusion list on Google ads, here's a help desk article. Here's how you do it." 

And then I waited for it to go viral. Because I thought it was, like, a brilliant idea. And then it didn't go viral because no one cared. But it did get picked up by I guess one other person. And it was, it was an anonymous account called Sleeping Giants that had started a week before with the same idea, you know, they had already started to post, you know, these screenshots online and tag companies to let them know that their ads were on this website, it was basically the same idea. It was  wild. 

So we connected. And we decided to start working together, anonymously. And that's how it got started, we started to work together across Twitter and Facebook. And we were, you know, everyday in the morning waking up posting these screenshots letting companies know. And what was, what was surprising to us was they actually replied, and they did it very quickly, sometimes within minutes, sometimes within hours. But this thing was moving very quickly. And before we knew it, we had followers who wanted to help out. And of course, everyone is seeing different ads because they're targeted in different ways. And so we were able to crowdsource this effort very quickly. And it moved so quickly that we had to create an Excel spreadsheet so we could keep track of all the companies that were dropping Breitbart. So it grew and grew and grew. And I mean, it grew beyond our wildest expectations. 

SWB 8:31 Yeah. And when you say all these companies that were dropping Breitbart, I mean, like, we're talking like big name companies were responding to this, right. 

NJ 8:38 Oh, yeah. I mean, the first...the...I would say the first big company that sort of put us on the map was Kellogg's. So someone alerted them, Kellogg's came back, they were the first to make a real statement and say, "We don't want to be on a site like this. We're also going to audit our ads to make sure we don't appear on websites like this in the future." And that led to a...everyone was watching Breitbart at that time, so anything Breitbart did was a news story. So Breitbart started some kind of a “hashtag boycott Kellogg's”, “Kellogg's hates Breitbart readers”, kind of a campaign and we're like, “Thanks, Breitbart”. They got us our first coverage in the Guardian and all sorts of other outlets. And that's kind of how we started to grow.

SWB 9:21 Well, and you became really big, and I know that the work went beyond Breitbart. Breitbart was awful. For those of you who've never visited Breitbart, or haven't heard that much about Breitbart, every single headline on Breitbart is truly terrible. It's like, I don't know, the classics around like, you know, "birth control makes women crazy" kind of stuff. It's awful. Right? So okay, so once you had that under your belt that was kind of working for you, how did you expand the scope of what Sleeping Giants worked on? And where did it go from there?

NJ 9:53 Yeah, so after we worked on Breitbart for a couple of months, we saw that we were following the reporting around Bill O'Reilly and the sexual harassment allegations. And after the New York Times put out that bombshell report that basically confirmed his behavior at work, we felt that doing an action targeting his advertisers was something that fell within the purview of our mission, which at the time was to make Breitbart unprofitable. But really, it was about making bigotry and sexism and, and hate speech unprofitable. So we felt like we could play a role in the story. So we started to target Bill O'Reilly advertisers using exactly the same methods as we had with Breitbart. And once again, it works. And really just using this framework or M.O. of just asking advertisers, "is something that you want your advertising to support?" And when that question is posed to you publicly, it's very difficult for advertisers to ignore it or sweep it under the rug. So they all fled, and no new advertisers came in to replace them. Bill O'Reilly went on vacation, he never came back.

SWB 10:55 Something I am still very thankful to you for. Okay. So I know that you mentioned a little bit ago that this was an anonymous effort at first, but then a couple years in, your names got out. And you ended up being featured in The New York Times over this. And I'm curious about why it was important to you to have that anonymity at first. And then what shifted once your names were in the world? 

NJ 11:18 Yeah, so the reason we decided to stay anonymous was because we were genuinely afraid of what the Far-Right could do. 

SWB 11:28 Yeah

NJ 11:29 It was very scary at that time around 2016/2017. It was also because, you know, we believed that it would affect our jobs. Both of us work in marketing. We're both copywriters, I work in tech. And I was being...we're both being very vocal against tech companies. So it wasn't a problem for me initially, because I had a job. But you know, it could be a problem in the future. So we wanted to stay anonymous for as long as possible. 

And the other, I mean, the other consideration was that neither of us really wanted it to be about us. We wanted the mission to be the focus. And really, you know, it doesn't matter who we are, because Sleeping Giants is really driven by the community. So even if we left, the community would move forward without us. So there were a lot of considerations behind that. 

But yeah, around 2018 was when my partner's name was, I guess, leaked, or they discovered it, and it was being published in the Daily Caller. So we decided to come out, and sort of, like, tell the story on our own terms. And we went with the New York Times, and specifically with a reporter who had been following and covering our story for a couple years. 

And the funny thing about that is, the article that people saw had a picture of me and my partner equally weighted on the front page of the business section of the New York Times. That photo almost didn't happen. I was in Berlin at the time, and the story was moving very quickly. And after the reporter spoke to me, she asked if I wanted a picture of myself on the...on the story. And I said, "Yes, I would, I would like that." 

And then the next day, she was asking me follow up questions. And I was like, "Hey, by the way, am I gonna have that photo in the paper?" And she's like, "I don't know if we're gonna have time, honestly, because it's really hard to get a photographer on such short notice in the city that you're in." And I mean, I was disappointed. If I really sort of asked myself, you know, like, yes, I did want a picture of myself in the story. Like, this is our big coming out story. I didn't not want my picture there. 

SWB 13:33 Yeah. 

NJ 13:34 So I did this thing where I was like, "Oh, I don't want to be difficult," you know? So I was like, "Oh, that's cool. No problem." And then I thought about it, and I really sat with it. And I was like, “You're not going to get another coming out story. This is it. And it's in the New York Times”. And what I did was, I contacted my best friend who's a journalist, and I told her what was going on. And she sent me back a email, she wrote an email for me, basically, and was like, "Just send this over to them." And the email said something like, you know, "I know you have a lot of considerations. I know, the story is moving very quickly. But it is very important for me as a woman of color to be represented in the story visually." And within a couple hours, they had arranged a photographer for me. 

SWB 14:16 Funny how that works, huh? 

NJ 14:18 Yeah, we did a photo shoot. And...and I got my picture in the paper. And I think it was one of the most consequential things that I did for myself because...

SWB 14:28 Yeah

NJ 14:28 ...without that picture, I don't think that people would have really believed that I was working on this...this kind of campaign, it was sort of my only evidence that I was part of it. 

SWB 14:37 And the evidence, I mean, the evidence is very striking. It's you and him side by side, separate photos, but side by side position on the page. And, you know, that really brings me to something that I was hoping to dig into, which is that, you know, this work with Sleeping Giants was so inspiring. And that made me incredibly devastated to read the article you wrote last summer. So I'm gonna share the headline and the sub-head with everyone because I think it says a lot. It says "I'm Leaving Sleeping Giants, But Not Because I Want To." So that broke my heart a little bit. And then "How my white male co-founder gaslighted me out of the movement we built together." I would love to hear more about that story. So can you tell us a little bit more about how you got to that place?

NJ 15:21 Yeah. So, you know, when we came out in 2018, it was a really big moment for us both. And I that point, I was freelancing. And yeah, I was in Berlin. And, and he was out in the States. And I just, I kind of realized very quickly that there was this dynamic that was forming, that was not good for me. Like he was out taking interviews. And I mean, at first, I also like this, this theme of not wanting to be difficult. I wasn't really out there in general, like, I didn't want to do interviews, I didn't want like a ton of attention or anything like that. So I didn't really fight for it. I didn't really have that type of ambition at that time. And so it didn't really matter to me that he was taking those interviews. I mean, I, I would have liked if I knew that they were happening, so I wouldn't be surprised. And I would have liked to be asked, so I could say no. But that wasn't happening. And what kind of made me, you know, cock my head was when I noticed that I was being portrayed in a way that was, you know, assistant, or the helper. 

SWB 16:31 Mhm 

NJ 16:32 Or, "She's involved with this, too". And that was where I had to start drawing the line, because I was not those things. And being portrayed in that way was going to hamper my ability to do my work in the future. And I did have some level of ambition. I'd actually done my first public speaking at a small SEO conference a couple months before, just like, knowing that one day we would come out, and I would need to be able to speak publicly. So I, like, pushed myself to do that. I had, like, this ambition of going out and being more involved in the ad tech industry. Because I realized I had knowledge and insights and experience that no one else had. I knew that I could make a difference and create change. But yeah, I realized that I needed to have some kind of a title at that point. So I called a meeting, I expressed that I wanted a title in order to do XYZ. And I was very clear about it, you know, almost to a fault. I was like, I don't want the attention. I just--and I guess that's one of the things that I didn't realize was so important that, like, you do need attention for the work that you're doing. 

SWB 17:35 Mhm.

NJ 17:35 That's something that I just didn't understand back then. But I'll get to that later. We had several conversations like this, where I was like, you know, "I'm gonna need access to a Sleeping Giants email address. I would like access to the general inquiries email address. I would like to know what opportunities are coming in. I would also like to be more involved. I would like to get something out of this." Because of course, it was a volunteer effort. There was no money involved. It was just work. 

SWB 18:02 Yeah

NJ 18:03 So yeah, it was getting to a point where it was really hindering my ability to do what I wanted. So I just kept doing the work. I mean, I had no exit strategy at any point. I just kept doing the work, I cared a lot about it. I loved being able to make things happen from behind the scenes, so it didn't really matter to me how the work happened. But to me, the breaking point was when my partner went to Cannes, this really big, like the big advertising awards show and festival out in France. And I had no idea. And the way that I found out that we went on Gold Lion was I got a DM from him saying "We won a Gold Lion" and I was like, "Wait, what?" 

SWB 18:44 Yeah

NJ 18:44 So, what do you do? I was really upset. I was really upset. And then I think that was the moment that I was like, "I'm being purposefully left out of the fruits of my labor, and I'm not going to get it from him." Like, I'm not going to get what I want by following his instructions. And one of those instructions was to, you know, to not call myself a co-founder, because I wasn't there the second that the campaign started. And I mean, I showed up eight days later. I don't know. But I basically went rogue, and I decided to just take matters into my own hands, I really had nothing to lose. I mean, we, we never signed any paperwork or anything like that this was just always, like, a cooperative situation. So I decided to start calling myself a co-founder and I started to take opportunities for myself rather than send them all over to my partner and...and I just promoted myself.

SWB 19:38 Yeah, that sounds like that was hard for you. I mean, you know, the way that you talked about the story, there's all of this kind of like, "I didn't want to be difficult" or "I didn't want to make it seem like it was just about me getting things or about my own ambition about myself here". And I think that that's like...this is like, the oldest story where, you know, we position women and I think particularly women of color. It's like "helpers", "assistants". And then if you don't play nice and don't keep quiet, there's so much judgment and pressure. And I'm wondering, what gave you the courage to say, "Yeah, no, I'm not doing that anymore"?

NJ 20:17 I guess the courage came from, I just really wanted to do this work, like, I was so, so deep into this work that there was nothing else that I wanted to do. And I knew that my options were very limited, like, I could...I could just leave, you know, I could just stop doing the work. And then who would take over the page, like, who would do the work then? Then I'm just leaving behind this community, and, like, walking away and going back to copywriting. And that would be, I guess, fine, if that's what I wanted to do. 

But I didn't want to do that. I changed as a person, I'm an activist now, like, I'm a different person now. And I want to be involved, I want to be deeply involved. And so that was just never on the table. I couldn't just leave. My only other option was to stick around and just kind of find a way to elbow my way in. 

And that's what I did. Because I did have a moment where I was like, "There is no one else who was better positioned in the entire world, to do the work that I am meant to do. There is no one." You know, when I say that, you know, I had this great sense of responsibility because I have the background in marketing, I have the professional ability to write, to communicate, I'm really good at what I do. I can turn this into something bigger, I have the experience and authority as someone who has caused all these, you know, crises and...and, you know, launched all these campaigns. No one else can speak with the authority that I have. So I knew that I had to stay in this...this work that if I left the world would be losing something big. So I guess that's what gave me the courage to stay. 

SWB 21:55 Yeah. What I hear there is that you really stood up and claimed it, like, claimed your space, claimed the credibility that you had, claimed your expertise. So what happened after you went public with that story about your co-founder and your treatment and Sleeping Giants? Like, where did you get support? And what happened afterward?

NJ 22:16 Wow. Yeah, the...the story that I wrote was...I did it all in a day. It was really my last chance at just kind of explaining in my own words, what happened and why...why I was leaving. I mean, this...this story went viral. And I never expected that to happen. I received overwhelming support. I received almost no negative feedback. And that was so surprising to me. I thought--

SWB 22:41 Yeah

NJ 22:43 I thought people would be like, "You should just shut your fat mouth." And like, I just thought I was gonna get a lot of hate. I thought people would say, you know, "Stop making this about you."

SWB 22:53 Mm. 

NJ 22:54 And that didn't happen. So I was blown away at the support. I actually still haven't responded to everyone that wrote to me.

SWB 23:04 That's okay. You, you had a piece go viral. That's okay. It's not your job! I absolve you. Okay.

NJ 23:10 It's like, I felt really bad. So a lot of messages that I just never got to. I didn't realize there's so many ways for people to contact you. I had, like...I had, like, extended family that I have never spoken to reach out be like, "We're so proud of you." Yeah. So I guess like I hit a nerve with...with the story, because I...I really didn't know that this was such a widespread thing. I guess I don't have--

SWB 23:31 Oh it's a thing. It's a thing!

NJ 23:34 And I think that I gave voice to a lot of people that are experiencing this at their jobs, like their real jobs. I mean, for me, it was just a volunteer thing that doesn't really affect my life economically. But yeah, I think this is happening a lot to women at work. And they just kind of saw themselves in me. And I got messages from women saying...I mean, women and men, but primarily women who were like, "This piece inspired me to go ask for a promotion. This piece inspired me to drop my partner".

SWB 24:06 Yeah!

NJ 24:06 Like someone dropped their...their startup partner, because they were doing this to them this exact same thing to them. And yeah, I think it gave people courage. And you know, I could have written the story last year, in a way. Like, I guess I could have been like, "I'm leaving Sleeping Giants, but not because I want to," and just be like, I'm walking away. But I didn't want to write that story. I didn't want that to be the way that people saw me. And I didn't want that to be the way that I left this campaign. I wanted to leave on a note that was positive. And that positivity came from me finding a way out of this situation and being able to see I came out on the other side. And this is how I did it. And so I knew that that was the right time to write that story.

SWB 24:48 Yeah. Well, so after you wrote that story, you launched Check My Ads, right?

NJ 24:55 I actually had launched it a month before.

SWB 24:57 A month before. Okay. Let's talk about Check My Ads. So...Can you tell us a little? What is Check My Ads, and how does it work?

NJ 25:03 Well, we're a brand safety consultancy. We help companies, Fortune 500 and global brands, to keep disinformation and hate speech out of their media buy. And we also, you know, we retrain these teams to make media buying decisions, so they understand what disinformation is, so they understand what hate speech is. Then we help them draw the line and create a set of guidelines that they can use internally to make these decisions in an objective way, and also to hand instructions over to their ad tech supply chain. 

And this kind of came about also by...I wouldn't say by accident, but we didn't really know what we wanted to do when we...when we started. And by we I mean, my business partner Claire Atkin, who I met on Twitter. She was a Twitter mutual, we were both in the B2B marketing world. And we were just like, "small world," so we followed each other. And she saw that I was coming out to Vancouver a couple years ago and asked to meet up. So we met up and we just totally hit it off, like I'd never met another marketer who cares about the issues that I cared about and in such a sort of, like, deep way. So we were just friends for several months, we just hung out and talked a lot. And it was only, I guess, after...well, I invited her to be my plus one at a conference in Scotland. 

So we spent some time, like, traveling and hanging out and really thinking deeply about these issues around, like, "Why does Sleeping Giants still exist?" I mean, that was the question on my mind because if this work has been so effective then why am I still here doing this work? We realized that the ad tech industry... something was going on there. They were talking a lot about brand safety, they were talking a lot about how they were solving the problem and how they've been developing technology and new products and all this. But I mean, I was going to the Gateway Pundit, and still seeing the same, you know, big brands advertising on there. 

So we decided that what we needed to do was understand how the industry works. And we started to take phone calls, we started to talk to whoever would talk to us in the industry, just teach us how ad tech works. Teach us how marketers think and advertisers think, and so we did a real big deep dive into the mechanics and the logistics and the relationships that make this industry tick. And we came out realizing, first of all, that there's things in this industry that are totally bananas. Like we...if marketers knew what was going on with their money, they would freak out. And we realized that the industry was working for its own bottom line, and not for its customers. We were learning so many things that made us go, “You know, people should know this, more people should know this.” 

So we started a newsletter first. That's where we kind of got our footing, we started this newsletter, we said We're gonna help you understand, particularly for marketers, how marketers broke society and broke the world, and how we can fix it. So we're very solutions focused, we come out, we explain to you how, you know, concepts like how keyword blocking works. And, you know, what that means for media outlets. And you know, why media outlets are going out of business when people are reading more news than ever. Like, these kind of questions that people ask themselves, but don't quite understand that, you know, those answers lie in AD tech. 

And after a few months, we realized, okay, we have...we have a business case here for helping businesses understand where their ad dollars are going. And we want to help them audit their media buy so that we can do this job for them. Because it's a, you know, it's a tough job to do internally. So we launched actually hoping to give people ad checks, like a manual ad check. 

SWB 28:44 Mhm.

NJ 28:45 And we took a bunch of calls, and no one no one bought it. So we were like, “Oh, what do we do now?”. And then we started...around July was when the Facebook ad boycott happened. Sleeping Giants was technically involved in it. I was not. Companies started coming to us asking us, "What do we do about this boycott? Should we join it?" So we realized that what was happening internally at these companies was they don't know how to have really important conversations around how to make media buying decisions, how to make these value judgments. And that's where we pivoted to. 

We decided to start offering training around brand safety, help them understand the issues. What is it that's making consumers so angry? What is driving these, these campaigns and boycotts and what is it that we need to offer them? What do we need to give consumers? What is it that they want in order to emerge from this unscathed? That's what we do know. We, we, we train them and we give them playbooks, so they know how to respond to consumers, to their audiences, and to act quickly so they...they stay out of brand safety crises before they ever happen.

SWB 29:53 One of the things that I loved hearing in this story was when you talked about your partnership with Claire, and it sounds like a totally different kind of relationship than you've had before. What's...what's great about that partnership? It sounds like something that gives you a lot of joy versus a lot of angst.

NJ 30:10 Yeah, it's awesome. We were definitely really good friends before we ever started to work together. And that made a big difference. So there's a lot of trust between us. I mean, the company is 50/50, we're 50/50 on everything. And we are--Luckily, I mean, I think we're just a rare a rare couple because we just so happen to have totally different core competence...competencies. You know, I'm sort of the...the writer, I come up with all the ideas and the structure of things, and she comes in and she edits me and it's come, it's come to this point where she knows exactly what I'm thinking so she can finish my sentences for me. And I think one really important element of our relationship is that we...we both take our egos out of our work, and particularly when it comes to writing, it can be, like, a very personal thing. And it' can feel bad when someone edits the crap out of your writing, you know--

SWB 31:08 Mhm. Mhm. I've been there. 

NJ 31:10 Yeah, it doesn't feel good. And I know that. I've been on both ends of that. And I think, I think the point at which I knew Claire was the one...what I knew that I could, like, trust her, and that we could, we could really work together was, we worked for a couple of days on an issue of Branded. And I was like, I just woke up, and I was like, "This sucks. I don't like this piece. I'm not feeling it." And I completely rewrote it. And then I showed it to her. And she's like, "I love it." You know, I never had to explain to her or apologize for why I...I axed the other piece. So yeah, and it just, it was better. You know, like it was better that we started over and it worked out and the piece was great. So I think that our ability to really put our focus on the work and take our egos out of it is such a big part of our partnership. And I think that's what is so key to making us successful. 

SWB 32:01 Yeah, I love that you have the trust to not have to worry about having your ego involved, right? Because it's like you're not worried about who's doing what or who's, who's going to take credit. And when that worry is out of the picture. It's like, "Oh, you can just do the work".

NJ 32:16 Yeah, we're both very vocal about when the other person does a good job. And, you know, we try to be like, "That was amazing. This is a great line, like, how did you come up with that?" And that's...that is so important. Because you know, it's really like us against the world here. So it's important for us to be...I guess it's just like any other relationship, you have to like, take care of each other. 

SWB 32:37 Yeah. Yeah, I love that so much. Well, so the newsletter is "Branded," and people can get branded at your website?

NJ 32:44 Yes, you can sign up on my website. You can go to and sign up directly there as well.

SWB 32:58 So, I'm so excited for the future of Check My Ads, and I'm so excited for everything that you're working on. So one of the things that I'd love to do for our last few minutes together is to get a little bit of your wise words for some of our listeners, because I know that there are people out there listening and thinking like, "Oh my God, that's fucking awesome." And then also, like, "I could never do that." And I want to help people with that second part, because I would love to help our audience decide to get a little bit bolder in their work and in their activism. So what advice would you have for that woman who is out there? Like I said, fist pumping you right now. But when she imagines doing that for herself, and getting loud about something she cares about? She's like, No, no, definitely not doing that. How do people get past their fears there? 

NJ 33:51 Yeah, that's a great question. And I think I'm a good person to answer it because I really think I was the last person to do any of this. I mean, I was really scared of public speaking. And I do it all the time now. So there's that. I just...I kind of just signed myself up for something, and I cleared my schedule. And oh, yeah, for that first one, for that first talk I ever did-- I memorized every single word. I practiced it like 100 times. And I went up there. And I just verbatim, like, verbatim gave my talk. There's a lot of work that goes into something like that. 

SWB 34:26 Yeah

NJ 34:29 So yeah, definitely be putting in the work. And it's...I actually gained a lot of inspiration from Shannon Watts, who runs moms..."Moms Demand". I read her book, and she said the same thing. She's like, I was not...I was never a public speaker. And she kind of forced herself into the world because she had to do it.

SWB 34:45 Yeah. You spoke to that before when you were talking about how you realized you were the person who could do this and that there wasn't a bunch of other people waiting in the wings. It was you.

NJ 34:53 Yeah, I would say another thing that has really helped me to gain confidence is to write on LinkedIn, of all places. Like I started doing this after we came out. I wasn't doing it as frequently, but I realized as time went on that it was a really important exercise in, I guess they call it thought leadership. I call it practicing using your voice. We think that we don't have anything to say and that we need to wait to write a blog post about it. I think it's more important that you just get something out every day. And then that you practice having a perspective and having a point of view that you put out into the world. 

It doesn't have to be perfect, and I think LinkedIn posts are the perfect way to just get something out there that's not perfectly polished. And just see, first of all, how you feel doing that. But also, as you keep writing about the things that you care about, people will come out of the woodwork who see that you're doing that, who see you, who will follow you, who want to connect with you. And it opens up a new world of opportunities. And then you are top of mind when someone wants to, you know, fill a spot on a panel or, you know, bring you in for an op ed or, or whatever. The opportunities just present themselves.

SWB 36:07 Yes, you know, thought leadership, it can be so gross. The way that people talk about it and the way people practice it. But what I hear you talking about is just letting yourself have an opinion. And I feel like it's so common for people and probably particularly women to hold themselves back from that and kind of deny themselves their own beliefs. And so I'm wondering when you think about putting your perspective out there, and you've got a lot of like, bold perspectives, when you think about doing that, and that like little fear kicks up, the one that says I don't know, you know, "This is going to be too much" or "This is going to make people uncomfortable," or "People are going to unfollow" or whatever it whatever that fear voice is....What lets you keep pushing through anyway?

NJ 36:53 I think that when you take a stand on something that is important, you will always have people who disagree with you. And that's fine. And you should let them disagree with you because you're...if you're out there creating change and fighting for what you believe in, you're doing something right if people disagree with you. It can feel like a kick in the gut sometimes when people that you respect don't agree with you. It's always important, I think to understand their perspective, understand why you disagree with it, understand why they disagree with you, and use that to push your work forward.

SWB 37:34 I love that answer so much, and I think we should end it there. This has been such a joy to talk with you. Nandini, thank you so much for being on the show today.

NJ 37:43 Thank you so much for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

You’ve got this

SWB 37:50 Okay, I am fired up after talking to Nandini, and I hope you are too because before we wrap, I want to bring you our new closing segment, I'm going to call it "You've Got This. This is where we take the day's topic and turn it into a bit of an action plan. So steps that you can take, yes, you can take to be bolder and more courageous at work and in life. Because you've got this. 

So here's today's: when Nandini said to practice having a perspective, having one that someone could disagree with, I felt that. I always tell people, if no one could disagree with what you're saying, it's also probably not going to resonate very deeply. It's a little bit of a shrug. And you don't want that, right? But it's also really hard to get comfortable having strong opinions and sharing them publicly. So if you're that person we talked about in the interview, that person who is inspired by this story but also thinking "I couldn't do that. I couldn't do that." 

Here is my challenge to you. I want you to take some time and think about an issue that really matters to you. One that keeps you up at night. It doesn't have to be a big news thing. It doesn't have to be defunding hate. It could just be a belief you have about, say, how you do your work, or how you wish workplaces run, or something that just matters to you, something you care about. If you stop self-censoring, and let people know what you really think about that issue, what would you say? No watering it down, what is your boldest most in your face thing that you honestly wish you could say out loud? 

Okay, so now imagine yourself just saying it. How does that feel? What's exciting about that idea of just saying? But also what feels scary about it? What fears come up for you when you imagine saying it? Now, here's the great news: you don't have to come out swinging with all of that all at once. You don't have to be the biggest, boldest voice on something the first time you talk about it. But once you stop watering down your perspective, even just for yourself, you're going to get some new information about what makes you tick. You're going to get some new information about where that fire lies for you, where that thing is that once you tap into it, you're going to go, "Oh my gosh, yeah, that's me. That brings me to life." 

So now, once you've done that, take a minute and pretend that you have that little Nandini on your shoulder cheering you on. What is one thing that you could do to start speaking up about this topic? What is one small risk again, just a small risk, what is one little baby step that you could take this week to make that happen? If you want to take that challenge on, head over to because I'm going to be posting these reflection activities and other goodies to keep your momentum up after each episode. And let me know what you come up with because, well, you've got this. 

SWB 40:42 So, that’s it for Strong Feelings this week. I’m your host, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and Strong Feelings is a production of Active Voice. Head to for all the details about our coaching and leadership program and to get our newsletter full of more Strong Feelings. This episode was recorded in South Philadelphia and produced by Emily Duncan. Our theme music is “Deprogrammed” by Philly’s own Blowdryer. Check them out at Thanks to Nandini Jammi for being our guest today, and thank you for listening. If you liked our show, don’t forget to subscribe and rate us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. See you next time.