Because the best marketers deserve great content.
A Conversation with Comcast’s Barry Garbarino on LGBT Leadership and Advertising
Building a career in marketing is about more than just mastering the fundamentals of brand building. It’s also about becoming an effective leader with the cultural awareness and emotional intelligence to lead a diverse team and connect with a global audience. We sat down with Barry Garbarino VP, Brand Marketing at Comcast Spotlight to talk about his career in marketing, how Comcast is building an inclusive global brand and corporate culture, and why understanding LGBT issues is essential for leaders at brands around the world.
Tell us a bit about Comcast Spotlight and your current role.
Comcast Spotlight is the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. Essentially, we help businesses and brands connect with the consumers they care about through integrated, data-driven video advertising solutions. Using advanced analytics, we deliver premium video content through TV, digital and video on demand (VOD) advertising, reaching audiences no matter where they are or what device they are watching.
Specifically, I’m responsible for the development of the Spotlight’s overall brand marketing strategy and annual marketing plan, in addition to digital marketing and lead generation initiatives.
— Comcast Spotlight (@ComcstSpotlight) June 23, 2017
You began your career at Disney – what was your first job there, and how did you end up in marketing?
I was part of the Disneyland College Program and was in the entertainment department, affectionately known internally as “the zoo crew”. It was a role that I had to audition for, and it made for a crazy first summer with the Mouse. From there, I changed roles and theme parks and worked in guest relations at Walt Disney World.
The opportunity to work on many incredible property-wide events led me to marketing. It seemed like a natural progression from entertainment, to guest relations, to special events and ultimately marketing. As my first company to work for, Disney allowed for many diverse opportunities that helped me grow professionally and also personally.
June is Pride Month – we’re definitely celebrating here at Percolate. Tell us a bit about the volunteer and advocacy work you’ve done around LGBT rights and issues.
I was a longtime volunteer for GLAAD. Specifically, I was co-chair for the GLAAD Advertising Awards for three years and also co-chaired the NYC GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD is a great organization and an amazing resource for companies.
Representations of LGBT people have changed radically over the last decade or two. Do you think the advertising we see drives changes in our culture or do you think most advertising is reacting to the culture around it?
I think it’s a bit of both. There are companies that have always been inclusive of the LGBT community and do a great job of properly representing us, and then there are some organizations that are simply adding in LGBT characters. Being LGBT isn’t a trend or a fad – so brands that include us in their creative should be genuine and true to their advertising – otherwise they are falsely representing their internal beliefs.
“More companies are looking at their workforce and realizing that they need to better represent them – not only their advertising, but in the way they communicate internally and externally.” –Barry Garbarino
Was there a specific ad or campaign that you remember seeing that struck you as representative of this change or made you think “Wow, things have changed?”
Not really, it’s more about the way a company portrays themselves and how they include the LGBT community in their marketing collateral, advertising, and even their product offerings. I do believe more companies are looking at their workforce and realizing that they need to better represent them – not only their advertising, but in the way they communicate internally and externally.
The changes in representation we just discussed have corresponded with an increase in advertisers’ ability to target specific groups and demographics. How do you think our increasing understanding of identity will shape the future of ‘mass’ marketing? Can ‘mass’ be inclusive?
In my opinion relevant content is a lot more interesting than general mass media. A better understanding of your target groups and demographics allows a closer, more personal conversation. This conversation becomes friendlier in style and less transactional.
As a marketer, having the ability to properly serve content to those individuals that are actively seeking it – makes total sense to me – by its nature and is more inclusive.
Do you think the way we’ve seen representation in ads change is reflected in corporate culture? How different is it to be ‘out’ in the marketing industry now than 10 or 20 years ago?
In regards to being ‘out’ in the marketing industry now, versus 20 years ago – I see very little difference – being that I have always been blessed with companies that have had a progressive attitude for LGBT staff.
Also, because I worked for creative and inclusive companies, like the Walt Disney Company, Comcast Spotlight, and AOL, I have had access to ERGs that support and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Working in NYC for the last 17 plus years also helps – being in a very metropolitan setting doesn’t hurt either.
As senior leader, how do you think about fostering an LGBT-inclusive culture on your team and in your organization?
As a brand marketer, I need to ensure that our outward bound marketing and branding efforts adequately represent the culture of our company. This is a culture of openness and inclusion for all, including LGBT employees. We recognize, celebrate, and support diversity and inclusion, which is at the very heart of our culture and a top priority.
For instance, for the fifth consecutive year, Comcast NBCUniversal earned a score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and was named one of the top companies for LGBT employees by DiversityInc.
Additionally, Comcast is committed to identifying and expanding opportunities for members of the LGBT community through recruitment, career development, supplier diversity and community investment.
Comcast has a number of ERG groups, including OUT@Comcast, whose mission is to connect LBGT employees and allies by contributing to a workplace environment that is LGBT aware, inclusive and productive for all employees.
— OUT@Comcast (@OUTComcast) June 25, 2017
Why is it important for senior leaders to be informed about LGBT issues?
Senior leaders need to be aware of not only LGBT issues, but of all issues that fall under the diversity and inclusion umbrella so employees can bring their full authentic selves to work every day. Leaders need to be lock-step in how they effectively educate and train all employees. Companies that do it right will have team champions that communicate effectively across all levels of the organization.
Do you think it’s especially important for those in marketing?
Yes, extremely important. Leaders in marketing can make or break the public’s perception of their brand in any facet of their responsibilities. Being knowledgeable about the achievements and issues that face the LGBT community only help the individual be a better and more modern marketer.
— XFINITY (@XFINITY) June 1, 2017
How is your team Celebrating Pride this year?
Comcast is celebrating Pride in a number of ways this year. We are participating in Pride parades and festivals across the country – in more the 20 markets across our footprint, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
The company is hosting an Employee Enrichment Series this month that features “I’m From Driftwood” filmmakers, and teams around the country are holding viewing parties to watch together. “I’m From Driftwood” is a nonprofit that works to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues through video stories.
Additionally, Comcast NBCUniversal offers a wide array of programming with its XFINITY LGBTQ film and TV collection. For Pride, there’s a great line up of movies and shows bucketed in four main pillars: Identity, Spirit, History, and Music.
You can check out these sites for more information on what the company is doing around LGBT programming: