Ramadan is around the corner: a month of spirituality, down-time, and... a sweeps period for the ad world that is like a month-long Super Bowl extravaganza. Ramadan ad spots have traditionally presented an opportunity for advertisers and consumers to enjoy the most coveted advertising efforts of the year.

In the US, a 30 second ad costs $5 million during the Super Bowl and it’s gone digital with brands eager to stand out in today’s 360-degree, digitally innovative marketing campaigns.1 We have an opportunity in MENA to make Ramadan our very own Super Bowl.

Local brands like Al Marai and international brands such as Coca-Cola have found success by running YouTube campaigns during Ramadan that focus more on the themes of the holy month than individual products. Al Marai’s video "أعمالكم من صيامكم” achieved more than 9 million views, while Coca-Cola’s “Remove Labels This Ramadan” video trended locally and globally (including in Canada and the US), achieving more than 18 million views2 - and it’s just the start.

The holy month of Ramadan is a time for people to connect with each other to show solidarity, empathy, and care for others. It was important to reflect these values in our campaigns so we could fully engage with consumers. We knew that YouTube was the best platform for our 'Remove Labels This Ramadan' campaign, as it allowed Coca-Cola to share its message with millions of people across the world amplifying these common human values.

Tolga Cebe, Marketing Director, Coca-Cola Middle East

Going Digital

Digital media consumption in MENA has risen in the last few years, producing a unique evolution in entertainment patterns during Ramadan. While in previous years, local networks might have presented a few special Ramadan TV serials, now there are over 50 such series competing for viewers’ attention. But these shows aren’t only competing with each other. As digital literacy in the region goes up, the Internet has emerged as an increasingly popular source for entertainment, research and socializing, particularly during Ramadan when people have significantly more free time on their hands.

Brands such as Coca Cola have leveraged this knowledge of increased online activity during Ramadan to launch Ramadan YouTube campaigns to great success during the last two years. The progression of Ramadan-focused ads includes “Open Up, it’s Ramadan”, Coca Cola Open Up with Chef Badr in 2014 and the 2015 ad on removing labels during Ramadan that went viral globally. The themes focus on a spirit of giving, unity and community during the holy month.

Pepsi also handled Ramadan ad campaigns with care. Unlike other Pepsi campaigns, Ramadan over the years rolled out with a video only asset. A Pepsi representative said: “the content of the video touched on the family aspect of Ramadan, meaning our Ramadan campaign spoke to a wider target audience. We used YouTube as the number one reach platform for video. YouTube was also considered for its targeting capabilities ensuring relevance (like when we considered GP in 2015) to run on top 5% content for Ramadan.”

Pepsi’s 2013 Ramadan ad , 2014 Ramadan ad , and 2015 Ramadan ad made use of YouTube’s longer time frames to tell beautifully unfolding stories of family, spirituality and togetherness.

During Ramadan, user behavior changes as people watch more video, perform more searches and spend more time on mobile.3 But MENA marketers and advertisers have yet to catch up with user behavior. The vast majority of ad budgets are still devoted to TV, print and outdoor advertising rather than new digital options. The fact that so many brands in the region are vying for the same television, newspaper and billboard spots means these ads are not only expensive, but also less likely to make an impression on target audiences. In contrast, there’s a huge opportunity in MENA for brands to reach consumers efficiently and cost effectively through digital marketing.

The Lantern Award: The Most Engaging Ramadan Ads

In the spirit of celebrating creativity in connecting with consumers during Ramadan, YouTube will launch The Lantern, a new award for the most engaging Ramadan ad. The winning video will be determined by an algorithm based on engagement and views the ad will have received by the holy month’s end. At the end of Ramadan, The Lantern award will be announced for the creative agency, media agency and advertiser behind the winning video. Questions? Email thelantern@google.com.

For a little inspiration, here are some of the most popular Ramadan ads on YouTube last year.

Remove labels this Ramadan | شوف الناس بقلبك في رمضان

إعلان زين لرمضان 2015 | Zain 2015 Ramadan TVC

Pepsi & Lays Ramadan 2015 Hi-Res بيبسي وليز رمضان ٢٠١٥ – حنكمل جمعتنا


Footnotes

1 Why the 30 second ad is not enough during the Super Bowl

2 Ramadan in MENA: The Digital Opportunity for Brands, Think with Google, February 2016

3 Ramadan in MENA: The Digital Opportunity for Brands, Think with Google, February 2016