CNBC’s Max Raven tells M&M Global the broadcaster is defying a tough landscape for international ad sales with the success of its Catalyst in-house agency.
Eight months have passed since CNBC announced it was looking to reassert its “premium” status in the market with a new ad sales model, built around CNBC Catalyst, a full-service, in-house commercial agency.
CNBC had received feedback from clients that its message lacked market visibility and consistency, and that it did “a lot of stuff” – and not all of it relevant. So, inspired in part by The Financial Times’ Advantage unit and Vice’s Virtue brand content team, it set about overhauling its strategy.
Led by senior vice president Max Raven, the idea of Catalyst was to provide a single destination for brands targeting an international C-Suite audience, with operations in both London and Singapore. It offers advertisers a “menu” of services centred on the acronym ‘ABCDE’: audience, brand consultancy, content, data and events and experiences.
Moreover, the name Catalyst infers that CNBC plans to “punch very highly above [its] weight”, and defy the scale of its international operation to deliver major results. “We may only be small, but we can make a big difference to your business. We are rights holder to the world’s most powerful audience,” says Raven.
Performance so far
So how is the new model performing so far?
Raven is enthusiastic about the project’s early performance, perhaps predictably so, but points to a number of partnerships with advertisers including Accenture, Alibaba, EY, GE, Dassault Systèmes and Shell as evidence that CNBC’s message is resonating with marketers.
In the case of Alibaba, the e-commerce titan has joined forces with CNBC a new reality TV show called ‘Pop Up Start Up’ (watch a clip below), offering support for aspiring manufacturing entrepreneurs. “We’re really proud [of the partnership],” says Raven. “Alibaba is a new client to international, and 100% of its spending is with CNBC.”
Nonetheless, Raven is cool on the suggestion that the broadcaster is switching focus from advertising sales to content deals, especially given the challenges facing traditional media owners in today’s market.
“Revenue is measured in total. My bosses don’t care [where that revenue comes from]. That doesn’t mean compromising integrity. It has been a challenging year for international media, but we have registered double-digit growth. In this environment, I am delighted,” he says.
Heading to Davos
He is adamant that 2016’s sales will not represent a one-off success, arguing that next year’s pipeline is looking “very promising”, starting with some major sponsorship programmes this month.
In a fortnight, the global business community will gather in the Swiss alpine village of Davos-Klosters for the annual World Economic Forum, an increasingly key content event for business news broadcasters and publishers.
According to Raven, 2016 was CNBC’s most lucrative Davos to date – with 13 partners and half a dozen events – and that this year’s will draw even greater levels of revenue. “We’re in a great place with client retention and new business is looking very good,” he says.
The message being conveyed it that we can expect to hear more, not less, from the broadcaster in the coming months and years. “CNBC is a sleeping giant – when you get to know us, it is very different from previous years,” adds Raven.