Mastercard’s in-house content agency plots international expansion

Last week, Mastercard made the momentous decision to drop its name from its recognizable logo of interlocking red and yellow circles.

The announcement of that decision, the creative and social assets around the change and the Mastercard branding and creative work that will now come — is the work of Mastercard’s in-house content studio, called Storylab.

Mastercard first launched Storylab a year ago to merge the financial services company’s communications and PR work with its digital content output. Now, Mastercard is planning an international expansion for the studio.  

Storylab currently consists of a seven-person team out of New York and St. Louis which crafts social, video and podcast content, monitors Mastercard’s social content and works with various units within Mastercard to create any content the company might need.

Christine Elliott, evp of global communications at Mastercard, said that within the next few months, Mastercard will open a Storylab studio in the company’s 450-person London office and then, from there, will open Storylabs in other cities outside the U.S. Beyond London, Elliott said other possible locations might be out of the company’s four other regional headquarters: Dubai, Singapore, Belgium and Miami, Florida. Abroad, Mastercard operates more than 70 offices across Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Storylab sits within Mastercard’s internal 80-person communications team and the entire communications team uses the studio for a variety of content on a daily basis, said Elliott. Mastercard didn’t cut out using the services from the variety of ad agencies it works with, which includes McCann for creative. Simply the demand for more content grew, so Mastercard increased its output by creating Storylab.

Storylab grew out of Mastercard’s headquarters in Purchase, New York, and then the company brought the concept to its operations center in St. Louis. Both locations are filled with 4K cameras, lighting, green screens, audio equipment, editing software and soundproof podcast rooms.

In the past year, Elliott said Storylab has developed more than 100 videos, infographics, podcasts and photoshoots. Elliott said Storylab’s largest endeavor so far has been working with Gimlet Creative within Gimlet Media to produce two seasons of the podcast “Fortune Favors the Bold,” a Mastercard-branded series on the changing role of money in society. 

“Seeing the impact Storylab has had in New York and St. Louis, it was only natural that we expand the concept,” said Elliott. “It’s an indication that any communications team can use a content studio to their advantage.”

Elliott said the move is less about saving money than it is about being more efficient with time, aligning corporate messaging, offering employees more development opportunities and creating more localized content that touches on cultural identities of individual cities. That’s on par with the majority of marketers. Recent research conducted by Digiday found that when it came to starting an in-house agency, marketers benefitted the most from having control of marketing functions and faster turnaround times over cost-savings. 


Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at research and advisory firm Forrester, said Mastercard will benefit from expanding Storylab overseas, not only because it would lead to a better cultural adaptation of marketing assets, but because it will bring better productivity to Mastercard’s international marketing teams. “If you work as a marketing leader for Mastercard in Spain and you have a big campaign to prepare,” said Skinner, “you’ll likely feel frustrated with the six-hour time zone difference.”

For a brand like Mastercard which operates a business built off of converting consumers, content is king and queen. Consultant and former MedMen CMO BJ Carretta said Mastercard is smart to expand Storylab so that it can quickly and effectively reach customers in different areas. “MasterCard is all about conversion,” he said, “Increasing top of funnel flow via content makes total sense.”

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