I had the pleasure to interview Garrett Albanese. Garrett joined Triad® in 2018 and currently serves as Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing. In this role, he is responsible for leading the organization’s overall brand positioning, communications strategy and go-to-market approach for new products and services in retail media. Garrett brings more than 16 years of media experience to Triad, having held various leadership positions across agency, technology and publishing companies. Prior to joining Triad, he worked across a roster of blue-chip clients including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. He most recently served as Vice President of Brand Strategy & Innovation for POPSUGAR, where he strategically oversaw the in-house creative agency and digital innovation team. In this role, Garrett led a team of brand strategists and content creators who were focused on delivering custom integrated marketing solutions for over 150 advertising partners. In addition, he was responsible for driving the company’s B2B go-to-market strategy, which resulted in accelerated revenue growth of over 30 percent. Garrett holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hofstra University. His passions include cooking, traveling and spending time with his family. He currently resides in sunny St. Petersburg, Fla., by way of New York.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iremember being a kid watching reruns of Bewitched on [email protected] I would think to myself: “Wow, Darrin Stephens has the coolest job ever.” However, I decided to major in finance when I first entered college. It wasn’t until I took my first marketing class that I decided to follow my original dream — yes, I got the marketing itch.
When I was 20 years old, I started working in New York City for a major advertising agency in digital media. Early in my career, a mentor of mine gave me the advice to explore different roles in the marketing industry to discover what aspect of our business I was most passionate about. Although I loved the media buying side of advertising, my true calling was in marketing and content strategy.
I went through a series of career transformations to get me to where I am today. The most pivotal change in my career occurred when I took on a role leading an in-house content & creative agency at a major female lifestyle publisher. It immediately merged both the creative and analytical sides of my brain, which ultimately led to my desire to take on the world of corporate marketing. Curiosity and problem-solving are inherent in my DNA, so it was a natural fit for me to be where I am today at Triad.
Can you share your story of grit and success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I was never more excited to return to one of my former agencies to lead their digital business after taking a few years to explore a different opportunity. This was a place that felt like home from the moment that you walked in the front door, were greeted by our receptionist and saw the faces of our teams hard at work to solve for our clients’ business challenges.
However, we were faced with the news that we had lost a portion of the business to a competitive agency not long after I had returned to this agency — an agency that I happened to have worked for in the past.
I was still relatively young — 31 at the time — yet I was one of the most senior leaders in the organization. Trying to digest this news, while figuring out how to adapt as an organization, was a lot to handle at once. However, our president was one of those leaders who created a sense of calm and defined a clear path forward for us.
I worked tirelessly with the rest of our leadership team to reimagine our agency model for the future. I knew if we could own data and analytics through innovation in the way we worked, that we would continue to be the most valuable partner to our clients. Ultimately the foundations established set the agency up to win back the business, plus take on global responsibilities. I’d like to say that I had a key role in that victory through a collaborative team effort.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I believe the people you work with keep you motivated more than anything. Whether you like it or not, most of your life is spent at the office. The team members that you surround yourself with become family to you. The more senior you become, the greater the responsibility you have to look out for their best interests.
So, how are things going today? How did grit lead to your eventual success?
Our organization is currently going through an incredible transformation as we reimagine our business model to evolve with the needs of our clients. My experience in undergoing changes from previous agencies has been critical during this time at Triad.
I see many of the same qualities in our CEO that I did in with my previous leader, which have helped pave my career path. She empowers me and the entire executive team to make the necessary decisions for our organization to ultimately drive our growth. I always say that when you surround yourself with great people, success naturally comes your way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There once was a time when you actually signed and faxed a contract back to business partners — before the days of DocuSign, of course. I was supporting one of our planners in launching an initiative for one of our clients where we had to buy media from over 20 different websites.
Well, I wasn’t paying attention, so I faxed all the contracts the wrong way. One by one, we started getting phone calls from all our partners stating that they were receiving more than 20 pages of blank white paper.
The most important lesson I learned that day was simply to pay attention to detail.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Triad pioneered the digital retail media space 15 years ago — even before, believe it or not, Amazon. Our first client back then remains today as one of the world’s largest retailers, so to say that we “started small” would certainly be a misconception. Although the business has changed since then, that fact alone is still something we are very proud of. Today, we remain at the forefront of monetizing retailers’ sites and transform them from merely ecommerce sites into valuable media publishing properties, while developing new innovative products and services that deliver on the evolving needs of our clients.
Since joining Triad last year, I was given the honor from our CEO to lead our organization’s largest rebrand effort that included reimagining our brand identity, developing a new vision and mission and values for the organization. This reimagination of our brand was not about walking away from our pioneering story; but contemporizing to meet the needs of an ever-changing marketplace.
What impressed me the most during this process was seeing the passion of our team members to push not only the limits of our brand, but also their personal and professional limits. Being able to watch the marketing and our cross-functional teams succeed in building a new brand in three months is one of the greatest highlights of my career — they pushed themselves harder than ever and I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as an organization.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You often hear a lot about “work-life balance,” and the reality is that it simply does not exist. Instead, I believe it is about work-life integration to avoid the “burn out.” This means finding ways to integrate work into your daily routine. If I need to leave the office at 5 p.m., then I simply leave. If that means catching up on work while making dinner or while at the gym, then that is just what I do.
It is oftentimes expected in our industry that you need to be at the office until the late hours to prove your value. Today, we are more mobile than ever and have an advantage over those who set the course before us to best make work simply “work” for us. However, we still need to mindful that we are responsible for being efficient at work without sacrificing quality — that means there are times where those late nights are necessary.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of the benefits of working for my company is our Triad Gives Back program. With this program, we focus on advancing four initiatives that are near and dear to our hearts: Aiding Community, Empowering Women, Fostering Creativity and Investing in Youth. Giving back is at the core of our culture — and our mission — to shape more meaningful connections. That starts right here in our own backyard.
Over the past year alone, we have partnered with Two Hangry Chicks to provide meals to food-insecure children and helped build five different homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. In addition, we’ve been able to donate to many great causes like the American Heart Association, Carly Cares and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
What are your “five things I wish someone would have told me before I started at my company, and why?”
- It’s OK to not always have the right answer.
Not everyone can know everything, and that’s OK. I can say from my previous career experience that there were many times I didn’t have the right answer. But rather than feel discouraged, I always looked at the situation as more of an opportunity to find the answer. From that process alone, I gained even more knowledge than what I had initially set out to learn.
- Change is not easy for everyone, but the reward is worth it.
My philosophy on change is this: it’s not easy and it’s often not fun, but it is a reality. With this in mind, I always try to make the best of any situation, knowing that time only marches forward and that every situation — no matter how big or small — will change again over time, whether for the good or the bad. Fortunately, in my experience, I’ve been lucky to say that the change I’ve encountered has produced positive results.
- Be open to new ways of thinking, and always eager to learn.
The most rewarding aspect of leading a team, in my opinion, is the opportunity to come into work each day and learn something new from a number of different individuals. The members of my team each come from different backgrounds, industries, and cultures. They each have something to offer that one person alone is not physically capable of thinking of all by one’s self.
- Take risks, even if it means being a little uncomfortable.
One of our core values at Triad is to be bold, and that encompasses taking risks. It’s critical that each of us take risks and do something that is outside of our comfort zone. This could be leading a new project, speaking up in meetings, or making a unilateral decision on behalf of the larger organization. If you fail, then fail fast and learn from your mistakes. Although it may be uncomfortable temporarily, the experience will benefit you in the long term and help you grow.
- Perfection is the enemy of “great enough.”
I’ve always believed that perfection doesn’t exist. Rather, each individual should strive for excellence instead. If we, as marketers, spend all of our time trying to make every task we do perfect, then we are not working efficiently. Simply, make your work great and produce something that you personally are proud of. That’s all we can ask of each other.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I had the benefit of taking a year off from work to travel (cross-country) and focus on my own personal wellness. It was an incredible experience that provided me with mental clarity before starting my role at Triad. I believe that everyone should have this opportunity to focus on their family, while discovering a renewed sense of self.
If I could start a movement, it would be for more employers to provide their team members time off for sabbatical. I wholeheartedly believe that the time outside of the office to focus on one’s self results in an increase in productivity when you return to the work force.
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