Inside Quibi’s Pitch to Advertisers: Content-Driven, Brand-Safe—and Expensive

One source pegged CPM rate in the $60-$70 range

Quibi execs Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg are emphasizing its mobile, brand-safe platform to attract advertisers. Getty Images

There have been quite a few flashy announcements about the big names coming to Quibi, the upcoming short-form mobile video platform helmed by former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and longtime businesswoman Meg Whitman. Directors Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh and Guillermo del Toro are penning projects for the platform, to name a few A-listers, and actress Anna Kendrick and personality Chrissy Teigen are heading up their own shows on the service.

On the advertising side, though, there hadn’t been much public news at all—that is until Wednesday, when Katzenberg and Whitman announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity that major brands like AbInBev, Google, P&G and Walmart had signed on as launch partners for the platform. In all, Whitman said, Quibi has signed on $100 million in advertising up front from a half-dozen brands across industries.

Those brand partnerships are a culmination of an extensive behind-the-scenes courting of major advertisers in which Quibi has touted both its star-studded content and the potential ensuing audience that will follow, all in an effort to sign on big brands right away and entice other brands to sign up for fear of missing out, according to people familiar with Quibi’s pitch to advertisers.

“It’s an ever-changing slate of slides from a content standpoint, because the strategy is around getting really big advertisers to sign up from day one,” said one buyer familiar with Quibi’s pitch but who was not authorized to discuss the content. “If you sign up the right big advertisers early, others will follow.”

The platform, which is slated to debut on April 6, 2020, isn’t just focusing on content: It’s also trying to set itself apart from other streaming services on the market by focusing on its mobile-only approach and its brand-safe environment, those people said.

“It’s very much [centered on] the idea that they’re meeting demand for mobile and for short-form video,” one buyer said. “Where they see the gap [in the market] is in Hollywood-level production value, star-quality and brand-safety.”

Quibi has stated publicly at industry events that its $4.99-a-month tier will include non-skippable pre-roll advertising: six or 10 seconds if the content are less than 5 minutes long, and 15 seconds if the content is longer. One buyer familiar with the platform’s plans said Quibi was considering allowing advertisers to buy a certain percentage of the platform’s audience among other advertisers, or share of voice, including a special package for certain advertisers giving them 100% share of voice for certain audience segments.

Another person familiar with Quibi’s pricing said the CPM rate—or cost per thousand impressions on the platform—was in the $60-$70 range.

“That’s roughly equivalent to prime-time television or live sports,” that source said. “They’re pricing it like it’s the most valuable highly produced commodity that you can buy in television.”

Someone familiar with Quibi’s plans said the platform is considering hosting a flashy event tied to its debut next April. The brand partners announced Wednesday will likely get additional brand exposure at such an event as part of their investment.

A Quibi spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for additional information about pricing, arrangements with launch partners or Quibi’s advertising tools.

Quibi’s premiere is still several months away, and several buyers contacted by Adweek said they hadn’t heard much from Quibi’s team about advertising on the platform. For buyers who have heard, there’s still not much to be said about measurement tools or granular targeting options, although there’s an expectation that those tools will be built out over time.

There’s also a big question mark hovering over how many people will actually sign up for the platform and pay for it.

“You’re going to see a lot of sampling [at launch] but the question becomes: do people feel like this is going to become a must-have part of their lives?” one buyer said.

Even with the lack of details, some advertisers say there’s a definite appetite—or at least curious interest—in how they can best leverage the platform.

“Obviously, the ownership and the level of access to creators and talent is significant and enough to drive confidence,” said Jon Stimmel, the chief investment officer at UM. “[Quibi will] have some content that we all want to be a part of. The more, the merrier.”

That feeling, though, is far from universal. Several buyers Adweek spoke to expressed skepticism that mobile viewers would actually want to subscribe to the mobile service, especially as more and more subscription streaming services join an already crowded playing field.

Craig Atkinson, the chief client officer of the digital marketing agency Tinuiti, said Quibi felt like “an old-world idea attempting to execute in a new-world format.” He was extremely skeptical that Quibi would be able to capture the attention of younger viewers, who he said are more reliably reached on platforms like TikTok and YouTube.

“It feels quite a bit like we’ve got a generation gap happening between the generation that’s creating this thing and the generation they hope will watch it,” Atkinson said. “There’s not a whole lot of history of success when those two elements are at play.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.