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5 marketing campaign lessons from Middle East brands

5 marketing campaign lessons from Middle East brands

The busiest ad season of the year comes with its share of excitement, competition, and marketing campaign lessons to be learned.

Traditionally, big brands competed for prime TV spots during Ramadan where they could reach the highest number of viewers (at very high costs). However, recently, there has been a noticeable shift as brands are starting to focus more on pushing their marketing campaigns online. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it also allows brands to expand their user reach and accessibility. What’s not to love about that? It’s a marketer’s golden ticket...if they are armed with a solid digital marketing strategy.


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A shift to online doesn’t start and end with uploading your TVCs to social media. You have to understand your online audience to be able to effectively engage them. You also need to adapt your marketing campaign reporting to accurately measure ROI and showcase success. And that’s exactly what I’ll guide you through.

To start off, let’s take a look at some of this year’s Ramadan campaigns and how they were received online.

Why Ramadan?

To give some context for why this is an optimal season for digital marketing, I used Talkwalker analytics to check how many times Ramadan was mentioned online in various languages globally and found over 22 million online mentions just in the first half of the month. 90% of these mentions originated from the Middle East and North Africa region.

No wonder regional brands are vying for the online audience’s attention!

But who succeeded at capturing the most attention? And did they do it for the right reasons?

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The top 25 emoji associated with Ramadan in the first half of the month (May 5- May 20).

Digging deeper…

Let’s take a look at some of this year’s Ramadan campaigns that generated high engagement rates online. From there, we can identify marketing campaign do’s and don’ts and hone in on the top metrics that need to be incorporated in a digital marketing campaign report.

1- Vodafone

This ad was shared on Vodafone Egypt’s Facebook page on the first day of Ramadan and has received a whopping total of 934.5K engagements so far.

It’s all too common for Ramadan ads to feature celebrities, varying from singers to actors and sports figures. Vodafone opted to go for a beloved pop icon, Amr Diab, but their marketing strategy went down a somewhat new route as the video resembled a biopic more so than a marketing campaign. Let’s take a look at the top themes in online conversation about the ad to see how it was received.

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The top 2-word themes associated with Vodafone’s Ramadan ad in the first half of the month (May 5- May 20).

That’s a whole lot of “unpopular opinions.” Social users piggy-backed on a recent Twitter thread format (unpopular opinion) to share their two cents on the ad. They used this format because they believed their opinion on the ad is controversial and therefore unpopular.

Digging deeper into the context these two words were used in on Talkwalker analytics, I found that their unpopular opinion was that this ad is better than the rival’s (Etisalat, we’re looking at you and you’re coming up next!). And since that’s the unpopular opinion, it’s safe to say the popular opinion on the ad is that it was not that good. Certainly not better than Etisalat’s.

Too bad, Vodafone. Seems the old trick of casting a beloved regional celebrity isn’t enough.

On the bright side, a look at the top hashtags associated with the campaign show that Vodafone’s campaign hashtag was quite catchy and helped the campaign gain traction online. Bonus points for that.

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The top hashtags associated with Vodafone’s Ramadan ad in the first half of the month (May 5- May 20).

Tracking and analyzing hashtags is key to planning and managing an effective campaign on social media.

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2- Etisalat

Casting a regional celebrity didn’t seem to really work in Vodafone’s favor. But what happens when your ad features a showdown between a local and global celebrity?

This ad, which was shared on Etisalat Misr’s Facebook page on the first day of Ramadan, featured both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mohamed Ramadan in an action sequence spoof.

The marketing campaign generated over 581.5K engagements on the original post so far. That snowballed into a 112K% increase in engagement with the brand and a 58.6K% increase in engagement on their Facebook page compared to the previous 15 days.

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Talkwalker analytics tool - KPI counter visualizing the increase in engagement with Etisalat brand mentions between the first 15 days of Ramadan and the 15 days prior to that.

Generally, the ad was well-received and some users went as far as crowning it the best one of the season. Although others raised the question of whether the enormous amounts of money spent that went towards casting two superstars would have been better off spent improving Etisalat’s services… Ouch.

Overall, getting a little creative with celebrity endorsements certainly fared better than just sticking to a household name.

3- Telecom Egypt

The next Ramadan marketing campaign that clocked in super high engagement figures was the work of yet another telecom provider, Telecom Egypt.

This ad was shared on the Telecom Egypt Facebook page and featured two local celebrities, Karim Abdel Aziz and Maged El Kedwany, in a comedic storyline showcasing the provider’s extensive data coverage.

This marketing campaign video currently has over 299.7K engagements which led to a 850% increase in engagement with the brand compared to the previous 15 days. Pretty phenomenal.

But if we’ve learned anything about telecom brands relying on celebrity endorsements, it’s to be skeptical of how that translates to a successful marketing campaign. It’s probably a good idea to check the sentiment of conversation.

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Talkwalker analytics tool - sentiment key drivers provide a visual display of common word triggers used by the audience along a positive, neutral, and negative sentiment spectrum.

Talkwalker’s sentiment analysis reveals a 61% neutral, 35% positive, and 4% negative split in sentiment - not entirely successful or disastrous. But, most brands don’t just want to leave their audience with a lukewarm sentiment.

If your brand is serious about making the shift to digital marketing, having a sentiment analysis tool should be at the top of your list. Social media sentiment analysis will improve your bottom line as it provides you with an excellent source of data for measuring customer opinions and attitudes towards your brand, products, services, and campaigns.

best sentiment analysis tool!

This also means that accurate sentiment analysis is one of the main data categories you should include in your digital marketing campaign report.

More on that after we spend some time judging two more Ramadan campaigns. Fun stuff, I know.

4 - Banque Misr

Finally, a break from telecom!

Last year, Banque Misr hit a homerun with a creative, uplifting, and comedic ad about enabling citizens in their quest to follow their dreams. This year’s ad followed suit with a pop singer blasting out a nationalistic tune that pushed messages of independence and opportunity.

The marketing campaign video, which was posted on Banque Misr’s Facebook page on the first night of Ramadan, generated over 197.6K engagements so far and led to a 9% increase in engagement on their page.

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Talkwalker analytics tool - increase in engagement on Banque Misr’s Facebook page between the first half of Ramadan and the 15 days prior to that.

While the ad’s nationalistic sentiment struck a chord for some users, many others called out the brand for essentially recycling the previous year’s concept for an easy win. A reminder for brands that having a data-driven content strategy that is based on a thorough understanding of target audience trumps celebrity appearances, feel-good triggers, and catchy tunes.

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5 - Etihad Airways

And last but not least, let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t go down the celebrity route and, instead, opt to support a good cause.

Building on a recently popular initiative in the UAE that saw fridges being placed around the emirates and regularly filled by residents with food for those in need, Etihad Airways decided to take it to the next level.

Not only did they provide international visibility to a local act of kindness but they also literally took the initiative to global heights by transporting Etihad Ramadan Fridges to different countries to share the spirit of giving.

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Talkwalker analytics tool - world heat map visualizing the global reach of Etihad’s campaign

The campaign generated over 93.4K engagements in the first half of Ramadan and led to a 51% increase in engagement on the brand’s Facebook page compared to the previous 15 days.

Key takeaways for brands

So, we’ve done the rounds and now have a better idea of the do's and don’ts that regional brands should take heed of, especially when they are heading into a busy and competitive season. We’ve also identified some interesting metrics for digital-forward marketing campaign reports.

Now, I’ll leave you with a recap of 5 key best practices for a winning marketing campaign.

1. Put your money where your strategy is

Given that it's the busiest ad season of the year, marketers certainly prioritize their Ramadan campaigns from a budget perspective. But is it equally a priority from a strategizing perspective? Campaign ideas should not just come from tradition nor should they simply be about a fun or creative idea.

Data should lie at the core of any campaign strategy - you need to consider the social media platforms you will use to share your campaigns, cultivate an engaged audience, deep dive into current regional and industry trends, and assess year-on-year progress of your own campaigns. And - don’t forget - finding a catchy hashtag can really help kick off the campaign online!

Using these collective insights should be your starting point for developing a successful marketing campaign.


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2- Arm yourself with the right tools

The shift to digital is not complete without advanced tools that help you understand the social and industry landscape, measure results, monitor competition, and protect your reputation.

Another challenge we’ve seen brands face as they migrate to online marketing is understanding the new audience that online platforms bring. You need to dig deep into your online audience demographics to understand who they are as well as how and when to engage them. For example, if your business targets Gen Z and millennials, your brand should probably focus its efforts on Instagram. And for that, you need to consider using Instagram analytics tools.

3- Drop the tropes and get with it

In the face of a jaded audience, please drop the done-to-death approaches. The social listening results we revealed indicate that the audience is no longer satisfied with cliches. Trust me, while I was doing this deep dive, I went through tons of comments calling out the lack of creativity in this year’s campaigns. It’s simply not enough to just do what worked in the past.

If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need to stay on top of social media trends. Celebrities, nostalgia, nationalism, and other Ramadan campaign tropes don’t differentiate your brand from its competitors. Which brings me to my next point…

4- Rethink celebrity endorsements

While this is traditionally thought of as an essential, it’s nigh time to rethink that tactic as we evolve to online marketing and actually listen to the conversations the audience is having. You’ve seen the sentiment analysis of the brands who featured celebrities and the increasing negativity towards the idea of spending millions on casting celebrities for ads as opposed to improving service offerings or supporting a noble cause.

5- Future-proof your brand

Technology is constantly evolving and your brand needs to keep up and evolve if you want to stay in the game. This even applies to your marketing campaign reports which should be measuring your brand impact in a digital-forward and intuitive manner. For example, advanced image and video recognition technology can help you capture mentions of your logo – even if your brand name is not written in the caption. That’s 250% more results than traditional brand monitoring. Technology like that can really revolutionize your brand and put you miles ahead of the competition.

Unlock your digital marketing campaign success

Don’t miss your chance to optimize your brand results and keep doing better year-on-year and from one campaign to the next with our comprehensive Digital Marketing Strategy Guide.


And when I say comprehensive, I mean it. From pointers on how to develop and present a marketing strategy, how to use social listening, and how to prepare a marketing campaign report to a campaign management formula as well as simulated reporting templates, it’s really the full package.


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