Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat- As Ramadan approaches, viewers and readers await the advertising battle that takes place within newspapers, magazines, on satellite channels and radio channels. It is no wonder that everybody joins the competition to gain the largest portion of consumers from the overflow of commercials. Such competition exists all year round; however, the holy month of Ramadan in particular has a different and unique impact.
Printed and television advertisements boom during this period as well as those of radio channels. Printed advertisements attract specific markets such as that of cars, banking, communication, fashion and other similar trades.
Most consumers notice the significant increase in the level of advertisements during Ramadan. The strikingly different atmosphere of Ramadan is felt on the streets of any Arab country. The advertisements of products specific for Ramadan are apparent all over Gulf cities, beside the traffic lights, above huge buildings, on local and national radio stations, and of course in all newspapers, magazines, and satellites which eagerly await the arrival of this noble month from which the media profits.
The phenomenon of the increase in advertising during the blessed month of Ramadan does not only relate to the huge amount of money that is spent but also to the quality of these adverts. Most of these adverts appear only in Ramadan for produce specific to this month. In this regard, advertising expert Khamis Al-Moqla, Chairman of Gulf Saatchi & Saatchi, says that Ramadan witnesses major advertising activity in both printed advertisements found in newspapers and magazines as well as televised advertisements that retain the overwhelming majority of advertising budgets due to its high rate of audiences for both pan-Arab satellite channels and local channels alike. He adds that, "the share of pan-Arab satellite channels is the largest."
Al-Moqla asserts that such advertising activity reflects the motion of the market towards various products and services that enjoy wide demand in Ramadan especially food and drinks, shopping centers and outlets, clothes, jewels and accessories, means of communication, cars, home apparatus, furniture and others. He explains that these sectors make the most of the holy month and the feasts to offer promotions and special prices. Also during this period, major companies which advertise their products also sponsor popular television programs."
Al-Moqla says, "Ramadan will come round this year at the beginning of the last quarter of 2005, which is a relatively active publicity period in comparison to the summer months." He expects the advertising outlay from the Gulf to continue increasing as it jumped from 1.87 billion to 2.10 billion dollars during the first six months of this year, with a growth rate of 17.87%. He also predicts that the markets of the region will achieve higher growth rates including the Saudi market, which usually witnesses more growth around this time of the year. With regards to the prime hours for TV programs and soaps in Ramadan, viewing purposes have changed and now viewers are more interested in the program itself rather than its timing. Al-Moqla”s view is that a good show or series now proves itself regardless of its timing.
However, Professor Saleh Al-Rasheed, who teaches business administration and marketing at King Faisal University, believes that the reason for this advertising boom is due to the unique traditions and of Arab and Islamic societies during Ramadan. These traditions range from spirituality and faith to consumption and financial habits. Concerning consumer habits, he says that in many Arab and Muslim societies, customers have certain consumption habits during the holy month that encourage certain companies to make the most of these habits for their own profit, by creating a need for these consumers to buy their products. Highlighting this point he adds that, "this is evident in the huge number of adverts that appear in all forms of media because Arab consumers still regard this month as one for consumption rather than production. There is also an increase in adverts in the evening when the whole family gathers to watch television programs and soaps which are at the highest quantity and of the highest quality during this month."
Professor Saleh confirms that the number of hours spent watching television is at its highest during this month," and as the feast approaches, families begin to spend vast mounts of money on new clothes, furniture, or vacations and small trips." He sums up his view in these words, "Advertising corporations will easily have the chance to reach their consumers at a lower cost for each advertisement in comparison to the number of consumers viewing this advert. At the same time, their consumers would be psychologically, socially and financially prepared for promotions and interacting positively."
Advertising expenditure before Ramadan
Figures regarding advertising expenses in Ramadan, revealed by the Arab company for research and studies (PARK) and published for the first time by Asharq Al-Awsat, indicate an increase in the expenses of publicity in the Gulf including pan-Arab satellites during the month. In both October and November 2003, expenditure on advertising reached 328.8million dollars (US) and 345.1 million dollars which makes Ramadan”s share (from October 24th to November 21st) 336.9 million dollars. Similarly, October and November 2004 reaped 471.3 and 358.6 million dollars and Ramadan”s share was 414.9 million dollars (from October 14th to November 11th). These figures are beyond the figures of advertising costs in December, which is also one of the most active months for advertising. The budget was 293.6 in December 2003 and 406.2 million dollars in December 2004.