Sparking change: CNBC launches in-house agency Catalyst to 'aggressively reassert' itself globally


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

April 13, 2016 | 4 min read

CNBC has launched a full-service in-house agency, unifying its international ad sales team and content studios to offer clients a variety of solutions across its TV and digital channels.

Continuing the evolution of non-traditional agency/client partnerships, the media giant is hoping to "aggressively reassert" itself in the global marketplace.

Speaking to The Drum, the firm's senior vice-president of international ad sales, Max Raven, said that the new outfit will be underpinned by the company's ethos that it is the "rights holder" to it's affluent and aspirational audience; something that will let it "push and pitch in a different way," to traditional agencies.

"The heart of catalyst is trying to make sure that we can give our clients a true two-way dialogue with an audience that delivers the return on investment they're looking for all the time," he said. "We often talk about interruptive one-way advertising, which is certainly very powerful still in many ways especially on live channels, but we're moving that towards a way to have a two-way dialogue with clients."

Sparking change

To reach this level of collaboration (something Raven describes as "a specialist art") and help brands appeal to its C-suite viewers and readers, Catalyst will be subject to an ‘ABCDE’ approach which covers everything from audience insight through to content creation and experiences.

Raven has divided the agency into several teams, with staff taking on various roles including creative directors, brand strategists, sales executives and more.

CNBC Catalyst is headquartered in London and Singapore and has poached talent from the likes of CNN and the Daily Mail over the past 12 months. Among the new hires is data and insight director David Evans who has previously worked with Eurosport and MediaTel as well as running his own firm, Dres Consulting.

Data will sit at the centre of Catalyst's offering, with Raven saying he'd like the department build to previous projects undertaken with the likes of Ernest and Young. Meanwhile, a new tie-up with the GlobalWebIndex will also help CNBC better profile its audiences and steer advertisers in the right direction.

"We're also working digitally and programmatically using our DMPs and other clever ways of targeting our clients throughout the business day on television as well as online," Raven added.

This data will be propped up by the "intellectual hub" of the business via the brand strategy department which will provide counsel to clients on how their brands can work with CNBC's audience.

Offering up "an audience to die for"

CNBC'S branded content shop, Studio C, will also come under the Catalyst umbrella. The publisher has been producing content for clients for over a decade, but Raven said that what CNBC can offer to brands in this area is "continually evolving," and an ever-significant part of the business.

"More than half of all of our deals have an element of content creation where we're creating either ads or other forms of native content for our partners," he said.

"We'll continue to build on that, it's only going to get more and more important for us."

Events and experiences are another priority, and something Raven said CNBC had success with at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (Davos-Klosters) earlier this year.

He is confident that the agency will be able to offer brands "an audience to die for" over traditional agencies, by bringing together industry names and influencers – something it did for GE at the start of this year by having sit on a panel with several big energy industry names to discuss the theme of "powering the future".

"I think we've been a sleeping giant commercially in the market place," said Raven.

"Launching catalyst is really about aggressively reasserting what CNBC is in the market place, that's what we need to do."


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