Ramadan in a pandemic: How to be creative and reach audiences

GianMaria Lanci, Farhad Khalid Rafique / March 2021

Last Ramadan fell as the pandemic was rising, resulting in the most digital Ramadan ever — with the trend likely to continue this year. Popular creative tips include the use of songs, celebrities and content creators in ads, showcasing how the traditional, festive spirit of Ramadan was immune to the 2020 lockdown. An agile approach will also help brands stand out from the crowd, which Qatar's Ooredoo successfully did with a Ramadan campaign shot on smartphones.

Once the creative strategy is set, the key is to reach the right user at the right time in a digitally saturated world. Here's how.

More efficient reach

Advertisers are facing new challenges to reach users efficiently, with many marketers considering decreasing budgets by 43% — vs 7% before COVID, according to eMarketer.

At the same time, YouTube has become bigger than ever in MENA as people spent more than 50% of their time consuming content online. That growth has continued even during Ramadan, creating a significant opportunity for advertisers to shift budgets to reach more users than ever before where they are: online.

What are consumers watching?

The lockdown caused by COVID-19, which fell during Ramadan in 2020, led to new consumer habits online. Trending categories across MENA in online video included education, do-it-yourself, gaming, and sports. And the most watched content was often locally produced.

Particularly during Ramadan, these were coupled with themes of togetherness, music, and celebrity. A digital-first approach to content with these themes showcased strong performance. For example, Vodafone showed how celebrities leveraged the idea of a virtual and safe gathering in the midst of the pandemic to showcase how families can stay safe yet also be together during Ramadan.

Top tip: Leverage formats like TrueView for Reach that offer reach-optimised campaigns to serve users efficiently.

More engaged audiences

As smart TVs become mainstream in MENA, we’ve witnessed a shift in viewing behaviour. More users are watching YouTube on TV as their preferred platform beyond mobile, tablet, and desktop — making it the fastest-growing screen for online video. We witnessed a 72% increase in watch timeof YouTube on TV in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia last year. This opens up an avenue to reach users that rely less on linear TV to consume content.

Top tip: Consider tools such as YouTube Mastheads on TV to present your content in a consumer-centric way and measure brand lift, creating quantifiable best practices backed by data.

More action

The Ramadan Shopper is increasingly reliant on online video for key shopping decisions. When looking at key Ramadan customer audiences, we meet the “Karim” persona; i.e. the shopper. He looks for more ways to transact online, leading to 134% uplift in e-commerce queries.

Advertisers can benefit from the emerging shopping intent that builds up during Ramadan by expanding their media strategy, like Unilever did with automation around prayer times. Now is the time to craft new strategies using tools to help reach key audiences, underpinned by innovative content creation. Peruse the work of seasoned content creators on YouTube for inspiration — or brand collaborations.

Top tip: Add Video Action and Discovery campaigns to your media mix as cost-effective ways to optimise meaningful actions such as site traffic or purchases.

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