During the holy month of Ramadan, food companies must abstain from showing food in their ads to avoid temptation during fasting. Sounds tricky, doesn’t it? However, McDonald’s and Leo Burnett KSA, have found a way to work around it. Their new Iftar Sandclock campaign features a virtual, live hourglass that counts down the time until Iftar each day. Communicate spoke with Saadi Alkouatli, Creative Director at Leo Burnett KSA, to understand the inspiration behind the campaign and how the KSA market is dealing with the current pandemic.
How did the inspiration for the campaign come about?
While it’s not appropriate to promote food while fasting, [it’s still important] to keep the brand on top of mind [during the holy month.] For the last five years, we’ve been doing a series of Ramadan campaigns for McDonald’s in Saudi Arabia, and we’ve [tried literally,] every trick in the book. We’ve pixelized the food, hid it, covered it, calligraphed it, you name it. [Any and every attempt,] to hide the food in the morning and reveal it at night. These campaigns were received very positively in the Kingdom. This year, we challenged ourselves to hack our own thinking about the problem. Instead of hiding the food; we decided to reveal it in a way, that is sympathetic to the audience- by doubling up as a dynamic Imsakiah, which is the daily schedule that Muslims use, to know when to abstain from eating and when to break their fast.
How long did it take to create this campaign and how did you approach the creative process under these special circumstances?
[Actually] we first came up with the idea two years ago. Initially, we wanted to execute it the hard way, by building a real 12-hour sand clock. After a couple of calls with different vendors across the globe, to understand the mechanics behind making one, we realized how expensive it would be and called it off. Instead, we turned it into a digital clock that is programmed by the McDonald’s screen systems, which handles the content across all their branches.
Why was the campaign executed via DOOH, considering the country was under lockdown?
We were about to shelve the idea for another year when the pandemic spread in the Kingdom. But when drive-thrus and food delivery were authorized, we jumped on the opportunity and used the digital screens across the Kingdom as well as the social channels.
What were the challenges you faced, considering food companies must abstain from showing food in their ads during the holy month?
Every food restaurant has the challenge of advertising food during Ramadan. But if you can let creativity and empathy help you create a non-intrusive solution, then you have a chance to go under the radar.
How is the advertising market in Saudi Arabia dealing with the current pandemic?
I’m amazed at how fast the industry has adapted to the new normal and contributed to helping people adapt to the pandemic. Every advertiser jumped on the social distancing train and supported the government’s efforts in educating and nudging, consumer behavior towards a safer lifestyle.
What new trends are you seeing emerging in the KSA market?
It’s amazing to see how the local agencies are evolving and, in turn, growing the culture of advertising in the Kingdom. I’m a big fan of cultural communication, and it’s only possible when you have the talent to dig deep into the culture and tell a great story to the world, from a perspective only those who live in that culture can [recognize.]