Behind NBCU’s Direct-To-Marketer Pitch

As NBCUniversal’s portfolio has evolved, so has its sales pitch to brand marketers.

When NBCU merged its linear and digital sales teams in 2015 and combined all its content groups, its client partnerships team assumed a greater role within its sales organization.

That team, led by client partnerships EVP Ali Tarrant, became the broadcaster’s conduit to brand marketers and CMOs wishing to tap into NBCU’s portfolio.

And, increasingly, its reach extends well beyond broadcast television.

“People know us for linear TV, but we have much more than our media properties,” Tarrant said. “We have digital content creation, AwesomenessTV for influencers, our theme parks and [access to] Comcast data. Our job is to know Comcast NBCU at 20,000 feet and to know our clients’ business inside and out.”

In that respect, NBCU’s client partnerships group acts as an in-house consultancy for NBC’s biggest brand clients, ranging from CPGs like P&G to telcos like Verizon.

It services 86 clients directly, driving 26% more revenue in the upfront this year than last.

Although NBCU doesn’t disclose an exact headcount for its client partnerships team, it hired former R/GA media SVP Tony Effik in July 2016 to lead client strategy under Tarrant, and his team ranges from former brand consultants to engineers. 

“It’s very left brain-right brain,” Effik said. “Some of our work involves research or looking at the data we have. Part of it is studying investment patterns. I have one person just looking at the CPG vertical. Insights have become our currency.”

Unlike in the past, when a media agency might evaluate how to solve a client’s business problem after winning an RFP, “now we study every client and category to understand their business issues before we proactively go out to clients to pitch,” Effik added.

Part of this strategy is just smart business practice.

Getting closer to clients’ day-to-day business can no longer be optional. Traditional media agencies haven’t been immune to CPG client cutbacks in ad spend because of the trend of zero-based budgeting.

As a result, more agencies are being asked to attribute media spend to harder performance outcomes, such as sales ROI.

“The conversations we’re having with brands are changing, where we’re getting deeper into measurement and outcomes, and straight sales are a much more regular part of the conversation,” Tarrant said.

Although NBCU’s client partnership team’s first loyalty is to NBCU’s sales team and driving more revenue, it also collaborates with brand clients’ agency teams rather than bypassing them.

“You can’t really deliver solutions to a client unless you understand all of the people making decisions around a client’s business,” Tarrant said. “Often we work on connecting dots that maybe the media and creative agency does not even see because we’re looking at a client’s business [from every direction].”

Like digital companies such as Google and Salesforce, which have specialized sales teams around categories and verticals like travel/hospitality, retail and finance, NBCU, too, has benefited from taking a vertical approach.

But verticals are evolving, and that’s creating more business for agencies and network “consultancies” like NBCU’s client partnerships group.

Apple, Amazon and Google, for example, all have relatively new competitive voice-activated services like Siri, Google Home and Alexa.

“Category exclusivities are changing, where you’re seeing whole new subcategories of products from companies that may not have been competitive normally,” Tarrant said. “This is leading to new investments in brand.”

 

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