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 significant free time on their hands.
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.
This paper explores how user behavior changes during the month of Ramadan, examines traditional media’s relatively cluttered advertising landscape in the holy month and presents examples of brands successfully seizing the opportunity before Ramadan, during the holy month and around Eid Al Fitr.
The impact of Ramadan on consumers’ internet habits :
Across the Arab world, Ramadan is treated as a time to reconnect with one’s faith and spend time with family and friends, which generally entails working less and resting more. This combination of free time and a celebratory atmosphere in turn means that time spent online and consumer spending is higher during Ramadan than any other period. In the holy month, users in MENA:
1) Watch more video
YouTube continues to experience a huge growth trajectory in the region. Between 2013 & 2015, daily video views increased by 200 million in MENA alone and during Ramadan, MENA viewers' reliance on YouTube is actually further amplified. Google internal data shows huge spikes across content categories on YouTube throughout the holy month each year, including TV & Comedy, Cooking & Recipes, Religion & Spirituality , Gaming , Auto & Vehicles and Internet & Telecom
2) Perform more searches
According to Google data, comparisons with monthly averages showed search queries in the GCC almost doubled during Ramadan 2015. Online deals and Ramadan promotions – for example car and hypermarket deals – were among the most popular search topics during the holy month in 2014 and 2015
3) Spend more time on mobile
Usage patterns confirm that the mobile opportunity in MENA is massive. For instance, residents in KSA use their mobile devices more often each day than any other device with a screen – a total of 44% of their daily screen time is devoted to mobile phones. And in the UAE 84% of the population uses a smartphone at least as often as a desktop computer.
Digital during Ramadan: An unmissable opportunity to connect with consumers
During the holy month, the extremely cluttered media landscape produces a challenge for brands aiming to reach consumers using traditional media channels. At the same time, people in MENA are now online more than ever before, and Ramadan sees this trend escalate even further. Digital offers a compelling alternative to the shortcomings of traditional media. Vast opportunities exist to reach and shape the perceptions of target audiences, as well as influence the decision-making process, using the efficient and cost-effective formats that only digital can provide.