Inside CNBC International’s 60-person in-house agency

For the last two years, CNBC International has been moving up the consultancy ladder with its in-house agency, Catalyst. The 60-person division helps shape the strategic thinking of its clients’ ad campaigns in order to drive deeper and longer-lasting partnerships.

Catalyst is now working with clients like Alibaba, Huawei and UBS, in long-term relationships that go beyond campaigns to include long-term relationships with clients that stretch the year. The group has poached ad veterans, assembled data scientists and attempted to take on more of a consulting role for clients who want to reach finance industry decisionmakers.

“It’s not smart to go into a client and say ‘we can do anything,’” said Max Raven, who leads CNBC Catalyst. “You have to focus on your area of expertise.”

CNBC International is in its fifth-year campaign with consultancy EY, Credit Suisse is in its second year of collaborating with the network on “The Brave Ones” and Total is now in its third year of sponsorship for CNBC’s Sustainable Energy series. Pre-existing clients HSBC and ExxonMobil have returned to working with CNBC International. According to the company, revenue has had double-digit growth.

“We focus hard on proving that whatever we do delivers tangible results so we can continue work with clients,” Raven said. “We need to prove what we do works. Eighty-four percent say they have taken action as a result of seeing advertising or editorial on CNBC International.”

This action could be making a purchase, clicking an ad or making a business decision, said Raven, identified through a mix of site analysis and surveys. The Catalyst data team has been instrumental in proving that the media company’s branded content works, led by head of data and insight, David Evans, who previously worked with Eurosport and MediaTel as well as running his own firm, Dres Consulting. Measuring how well the ads work is split into three pillars: campaign effectiveness testing; content testing; and campaign monitoring. CNBC Catalyst groups its services into audience planning, brand strategy, content services, data insight and events.

For Credit Suisse, CNBC Catalyst produced an eight-part video series “The Brave Ones,” with 30-minutes episodes following business people and where they’ve shown moments of bravery. The series has featured heavyweights like Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown and Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma.

According to Raven, more than a third of CNBC International’s global audience saw “The Brave Ones,” post-campaign analysis found that three out of four people were more positive towards Credit Suisse after viewing the series, and almost half of those said they were more likely to choose to invest with Credit Suisse.

For Schneider Electric, the company said that 97 percent of the people that watched CNBC Catalyst’s series “IOT: Powering the Digital Economy” said they were more familiar, or likely to consider, Schneider Electric after the show aired.

Being part of the wider network of NBCUniversal and Comcast means there are more tools available for the International arm’s clients, as it did with Shell last year to promote the “On top of the world” video as part of the company’s #makethefuture campaign, sharing the video across other NBCUniversal owned platforms.

“There’s a broad palette to paint from, there will only be more of these types of partnership for our clients.”

CNBC has hired agency execs from JWT, invested in data science team and retrained sales teams to sell consultative services.

“I didn’t expect how much more we’d need smart consultative selling,” said Raven. “The biggest change is we’re now an idea and results driven culture rather than a media selling division, we are consultants and have a lot of tools at our hands to do that, rather than filling digital space.”

Image: courtesy of CNBC Catalyst.

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