By Ali Cheikhali, Creative Strategist at Google MENA, and Angela Hundal, Editor at Think with Google MENA
Our Ramadan 2021 viewing insights are in, and we have great news. Search interest increased for “ad” by more than 13X during last year’s holy month in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). On top of this, 75% of the top-watched YouTube videos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia (KSA), and Egypt were ads. The three top-watched YouTube videos across these markets were ads too.3 This means that consumers are actively seeking out brands during Ramadan, rather than the other way around.
We manually analyzed content from hundreds of Ramadan ads extracted from YouTube in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt last year. These three trends stood out:
One-quarter of MENA’s top-watched content came from YouTube creators last year. While brands in the region are jumping on board to take advantage of creators’ more authentic content, working with creators remains relatively untapped in MENA.
The benefits of this type of partnership are clear though. Sixty-one percent of YouTube subscribers say their views of a brand have been influenced by a creator. And six out of ten. The benefits of this type of partnership are clear though. Sixty-one percent of YouTube subscribers say their views of a brand have been influenced by a creator. And six out of ten say they would follow the advice of a creator over a favorite TV or movie personality on what to buy.
Last year during the holy month, Benefit Cosmetics partnered with YouTube creator Noor Stars. Noor shared her day-to-day make-up and beauty routine in a laid-back and relatable way that feels much less like a traditional ad, garnering over two million views. This more casual approach allowed Benefit Cosmetics to share its message in an authentic and engaging way, with its products seamlessly integrated into a video Noor would be filming anyway.
We’ve seen a 20% YoY increase in search interest for “sustainability” in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, with video views around this topic also growing. During Ramadan last year, the number of ads featuring an element of social responsibility also rose. Saudi Telecom Company’s (STC) ad — that features a futuristic look at how technology might work in harmony with our world — achieved nearly ten million views.
Two other major positive trends that we saw emerge in some markets during Ramadan last year centered around social causes and giving. This was evidenced by a 100% increase in search interest for “donations” and “charitable giving” in KSA during the holy month versus other months, for example.
This Smiles UAE ad — that encouraged people to donate meals during Ramadan — saw over 2.5 million views. And this GMC ad — featuring Dubai-based humanitarian Ahmed Ali running two marathons in two days to encourage ‘room for kindness’ — achieved nearly 1 million views.
Key takeaways for marketers:
Well-structured narratives are important to audiences in MENA. In fact, a third of all top-watched ads in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were built on great storytelling last year. Warm, fuzzy videos that took people on a sentimental trip down memory lane were particularly popular.
This theatrical three-and-a-half-minute long Vodafone Egypt ad channels nostalgia beautifully, racking up an impressive 61 million views. It stars well-known Egyptian actress, singer, and dancer Sherihan, who shares her life story through song and dance.
When it comes to video length during the holy month there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Short formats work well, but people are also willing to consume lengthier content. About 63% of all Ramadan ads last year were longer than one minute. This three-and-a-half-minute Tata Motors ad, for example — that tells the tale of two different segments of society unexpectedly coming together — saw nearly 43 million views.
1 Google Trends, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Searches for the word “ad” in Arabic combined, April–May 2021 vs. April–May 2020.
2, 4, 5 Google internal study, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, 2021
3 Google internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, 2021
6, 7 Google-commissioned Ipsos Connect, ‘The YouTube Generation Study’, U.S., Nov. 2015
8 Google internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Feb. 2021 vs. Feb. 2020.
9, 13, 15 Google internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, 2021
10, 14 Google internal study, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, 2021
11 Google Trends, Saudi Arabia, April–May 2021 vs. all other months in 2021
12 Google/C Space, BR, FR, DE, IN, MX, U.K., U.S., qualitative survey activity, 24–26 Nov. 2020
16 Google/Kantar Link AI, Global, The Short and the Long of ABCDs Effectiveness, April 2021
The original article was published on Think With Google