Earlier this year, YouTube announced a first of its kind competition for Ramadan ads on the platform. Titled the “Lantern Award”, the program celebrated the best Ramadan ad in 2016 based on an algorithm that took into account views, engagement, and qualitative elements. The winner of The Lantern Award went to VIVA Kuwait for a very funny two-part series, Where is my bowl?, on misplacing cookware after dinner with guests.
Following the announcement, we caught up with Alex Brunori, head of creative agencies for Google in MENA, to hear his thoughts on the awards and what he made of the competing entries.
What was the idea behind YouTube Lantern?
Ramadan is MENA’s Super Bowl. Many brands during the Holy Month make a focused communication effort, creating unique Ramadan-themed campaigns, and people are waiting for these brand stories and the values and insights they offer. It is a moment for introspection and altruism, but also for celebration and togetherness – profound and light-hearted at the same time. We wanted to honor the immense and timeless richness of this tradition by creating a unique award, The Lantern, offered by YouTube, which is the space where these stories live and thrive.
What were the trends you noticed on YouTube this Ramadan from advertisers?
With regards to the themes, there was a vast presence of the “usual suspects”: music and songs, dance performances, family reunions and friends’ gatherings, with togetherness, altruism, and generosity at their core. Some of the brands used celebrities.
The average duration – across all entries and the top winners – has been 1 minute 40 seconds.
Brands prefer to use their own voice in Ramadan and generally don’t delegate this pivotal communication moment to influencers.
What were the trends you noticed among the winning entries and what was that one winning quality?
The “hub” kind of content – a series of related episodes – is growing fast and is being used properly: three out of the top ten entries were multipart stories.
Some of the winning entries, like Viva and NBK, were based on strong consumer insights and probably this has been instrumental to their performances.
Also, the storytelling is changing: social experiments (STC), a dash of dark humor (Mobily) or a call to action for the viewers to express their opinion (Mandolin) played a role.
The winning quality has been the ability to engage people starting from a strong, consumer related insight.
Based on this, what would be your advice to other brands?
The top segment of the competition has been dominated by “service” brands, like telcos and banks. This is not surprising, as for these brands being engaging is of paramount importance, but also shows that when a brand decides to create content with the users’ needs, true passions and relevant tension points in mind, they succeed in winning their attention and interest. We have also seen what we have defined the “uncelebrities” effect: using celebrities, in fact, did not bring additional value in terms of engagement.
What would your Top 3 tips be for brands to win the next Lantern, and also, what they should consider as success?
1. Be bold and innovate within the tradition
2. Explore new forms of storytelling
3. Create more episodes to accompany people throughout the Holy Month.
Watch time is the new brand currency, and it’s an undisputable sign of engagement – a far better success metric than eyeballs.