Ramadan Buzz Returns

After a comparatively sober 2017, Ramadan is back with spenders going all out in the holy month to make a lasting impression on consumers.

Ramadan is never dull in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, irrespective the strain on the economy and on marketer’s ad budgets. That however does not preclude it from its shares of ups and downs, as consumers keep changing how much they are spending, and where they are shopping. In recent years, Ramadan spending has become a seesaw of sorts, and the only exception is digital that continues to grow year-on-year.

This was evident last year when marketing budgets took an overall beating. Most agency chiefs were battling with finding effective solutions in limited budgets. This year however, the trends differ some.

“We are still not back even in what clients were spending three to four years ago, but this year has been comparatively better. Digital has remained strong, as has TV, and more monies are being apportioned to the likes of print and radio as well,” explained a media agency head.

Marketers have loosened the purse strings, but they have upped the demand for newer ways to spend, and for messages that tug at consumer’s heartstrings.

From Hard Hitting To Emotional
Kuwait-based telecommunications group Zain continued its efforts to shake things up with its 2018 Ramadan ad ‘Mr President’. Last year, the telecom company had made a bold statement against terrorism in its ad.

The ad this year, which is more than three minutes long, has gone viral with appearances from look-alikes of several world leaders including US President Donald Trump, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The ad, featuring a young Arab child, touches upon the tragic case of Alan Kurdi, the bombing campaigns across the region, the refugee crisis and the controversial US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Reactions to the ad were mixed to say the least between acknowledging Zain efforts to raise the voice of children in conflict areas of the region and those who question the objective of a message.

Zain’s gamble paid off, as the ad recorded over a million views within the first 24 hours but it was an exception.

A large majority of ads continue to build on Ramadan’s theme of sharing and reflection. For instance, Honda ‘Share Your Dreams’ ad that focused on the spirit of giving and coming back home safe to family.

Retailers such as Marks & Spencer also took to mainstream this year with its #SparkeInSpirit campaign.

Rise In Digital
Digital buying behavior surges during Ramadan. Platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have identified patterns and created new avenues for marketers to make the most of emerging opportunities.

As per Facebook, over 86 percent of its users celebrate Ramadan. Companies including FMCG, retail, automotive and beauty among others, have an extra 57.6 million hours to capture attention in MENA, during the month.

Ramadan usage of Facebook sees an overall 14.8 percent increase across the MENA region, jumping to a 36.9 percent increase at night, peaking at 3 am. This is part of a wider rise in ecommerce activity in the region during Ramadan. This amplified activity is primarily driven by mobile purchases, which gets a 43.2 percent bump.

Landmark Group’s Splash promoted its Ramadan collection on Facebook, driving acquisition and re-engagement campaigns to drive sales. This resulted in a 75 percent increase in sales during Ramadan, with an 80 percent increase in conversion rates, yielding 15 percent higher return on ad spend.

L’Oreal used custom-made creative to promote its Ultra Doux haircare range during Ramadan on Facebook, resulting in a 14.3 percent increase in ad recall in Saudi Arabia, and a 9.3 percent increase in brand awareness in the UAE.

“As the use of mobile to discover and engage with products and services continues to increase, our aim is to enhance this experience for both brands and consumers. For a period as significant as Ramadan, which sees tremendous traffic on the platform, marketers in the region have the opportunity to leverage Facebook’s family of apps and services to personalize content at scale, and thereby influence people at the point of inspiration, consideration and conversion,” informs Facebook’s regional business lead across retail, telecom, technology, services and entertainment, Shant Oknayan.

No Repeat Act
Twitter partners with YallaFeed to explore something new altogether. The platform launched the first live show in MENA, #HawanahZein. The biweekly evening show focuses on what’s happening in the Arab world on Twitter during the month of Ramadan.

Unilever’s Lipton, Omo and Knorr brands signed on as sponsors to allow tailored audiences who connect to Twitter to access and view the live episodes while they’re scrolling through their timelines.

#HawanahZein is produced by YallaFeed with support from Hollywood-based production company, Propagate.

“STEP Group’s brands; YallaFeed and StepFeed, are among the first publishers in the region that we’ve partnered with for Twitter’s In Stream Sponsorships; a program pairing advertisers and publishers. We have now extended this partnership to bring the first live show on Twitter to the region. As millennials are consuming more live content, such a show will connect with a hard to reach audience that relies on social timelines to discover and consume content,” adds Kinda Ibrahim, Director Media Partnerships, MENA, Twitter.

In all Ramadan 2018 has served up a plethora of engagements and options for consumers. Promotions across retailers, hospitality players and others have marked the month bringing buzz back this year.

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