Quibi would not discuss its conversations with brands, or confirm that any brand had left. Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, who was a recent guest on Ad Age Remotely, acknowledged that one brand requested to modify its campaign plans. “Thus far there's been only one who said, ‘Hmm, can we make any changes here given our set of circumstances,’” Whitman said in the interview with Ad Age. “The rest have said, ‘We're all in. We think this is great and we’ve made a commitment and we’re going to honor that commitment.’”
Ad Age spoke with several advertising executives who work with Quibi brands, and reached out to the brands that have publicly announced deals with the app. Representatives for Progressive, T-Mobile, Google, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Walmart, General Mills, Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo all confirmed they are still committed. The companies represent 25 brands that were scheduled to run commercials on Quibi.
However, the advertising executive said that other Quibi brands would scale back their advertising if they could. "It's sort of biting them now in the ass because a lot of these brands that they got big commitments from pre-COVID want to pull those dollars back," the agency exec says.
For its part, Quibi said it is willing to work with its partners. “Quibi is laser-focused on listening to our customers and that includes our advertising partners,” Quibi’s spokeswoman said. “From the beginning, we worked with our advertising partners to give them the tools they need to understand how consumers are engaging with their brands and quickly make changes and respond accordingly.”
She added that there could be flexibility to alter the campaigns if companies need to swap one brand in their portfolio for another one. For instance, if one of the brands isn’t spending in a specific quarter or isn't right for the platform under the current circumstances, then the company could make adjustments, the spokeswoman said.
The coronavirus shutdown did hit Quibi at its core. People are under quarantine, making its concept of “quick bite” viewing seem misaligned with the moment. (Quibi drew its name from the combination of “quick” and “bite.”)
The pandemic surely threw a curveball at Quibi’s launch, says Brad Stockton, VP of video innovation at Dentsu Aegis Network. Stockton works with two of Quibi's early sponsors and said they have not asked to renegotiate their upfront deals. Stockton declined to discuss the brands by name for this story, but was optimistic that Quibi could deliver as a fresh source of premium digital shows. “They need to find ways to incorporate true connected TV behaviors,” Stockton says. “Consumers are always lusting for premium content and that's what we see Quibi as.”
In response to the fact that potential viewers are now mostly isolated in their homes, Quibi said in April that it would build a feature that casts its shows to TV sets. In May, viewers on Apple phones will have casting powers, and that will arrive a “little later" on Android and other platforms, Whitman told Ad Age.
Quibi says that streaming the app to TVs was always part of the plan, and coronavirus simply forced it to move faster than expected.
Still, streaming to TVs is not what the advertisers imagined when they signed up. Brands were sold on the app as a completely new type of video experience, rather than another TV app. Quibi combined the time-wasting appeal of phones with the high-production value of Hollywood. Celebrities like Chrissy Tiegen, Liam Hemsworth, Sophie Turner, Chance the Rapper and Reese Witherspoon star in its shows.
Quibi has raised a jaw-dropping $1.8 billion to fund its programming.
'Less predictable investment'
General Mills is advertising Old El Paso and Oui By Yoplait yogurt on Quibi, according to Ivan Pollard, chief marketing officer of General Mills. Pollard says there are still moments when people could use a Quibi distraction at home.
“It’s designed for on-the-go but it didn’t take any of the wind out of our sails because I think what on-the-go means right now is going from one Skype or one call to another,” Pollard says. “It’s actually quite fun as a little break, on-the-go between your laptop and your telephone, and you have a quick Quibi. We thought it might be worth sticking with it.”
General Mills will keep its Quibi campaigns humming, but Pollard says he does want the app to “get back to being on a phone.”
Taco Bell’s marketing team is sticking by Quibi, too. “We went into the program knowing it would be a less predictable investment than other media choices,” said Sasha Wolfe, Yum Brands head of media, in an email. “We are as committed as ever to be a part of the program as people discover it and the user base grows.”