Reflecting on Ramadan: 5 Keys to Effective Ads (Part 1)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is celebrated as one of the most significant events for Muslims around the world. This holy month is marked by fasting, which is considered a highly esteemed ritual and is one of the five pillars of Islam. Fasting during Ramadan is not just abstaining from food and drink from dawn until sunset but also aims to develop a sense of empathy towards the less fortunate. During Ramadan, Muslims engage in philanthropic activities such as giving alms, feeding the poor, providing iftar meals to those who are fasting, or donating to organizations that help the needy.

While the past three years saw muted celebrations and a largely virtual festival, Ramadan 2023 brings with it a return to normalcy. During Ramadan, purchasing and online behaviours change as people buy food, gifts, new clothes, and decorations for the celebrations. Additionally, promotions offered by retailers and gifting culture make shopping a focal point of the festivities in Indonesia.

As a result, this is a period of major retail growth and creates meaningful opportunities for brands to reach their consumers through timely and relevant messaging. It is common to see special Ramadan-themed ads that focus on family, community, and the values of the holy month.

Winning during Ramadan

We selected 14 Ramadan ads from 2022 and tested them with System1’s Test Your Ad platform to understand how some of the biggest Indonesian brands’ commercials performed with audiences. We explore the effectiveness of these campaigns through 5 key lenses and share insights that brands can leverage to appeal to their audiences during this festive period. In this blog, we’ll focus on the first two lenses.


  1. Emotion: How well does the basic idea of the ad create a positive feeling?
  2. Story: What is the shape of the story arc?
  3. Characters: Are the characters engaging, relatable and suitable? Is there a connection between them?
  4. Fluency: Is the brand quickly and easily recognisable? Is the ad making effective use of Fluent Devices?
  5. Soundtrack: What emotion does the music create? Does it support the story?


Businesses grow by acquiring new customers rather than trying to improve loyalty by focusing on existing customers. This requires talking to potential new customers through broad-reach advertising. The role of brand-building advertising is to create mental availability (i.e., to get consumers to notice and remember a brand and put it at the top of their mental shopping list). To this end, advertising needs to entertain and be emotionally engaging. So, a brand that can make viewers feel good through its advertising will, on future occasions, guide them quickly and almost imperceptibly to decide in its favour.

All the ads we tested focused on evoking positive emotions by tapping into themes such as connection and belonging, expressions of love and care, support, and social good.


  1. For instance, connecting with one another in an increasingly disconnected world where both technology and people’s own lives take precedence over relationships is a theme that is explored in some ads. In the Khong Guan ad, an old man connects with his family over their shared love of biscuits, whereas the Indomie ad shows the coming together of a family from their separate spaces to connect over a meal.
  1. Love and care are ways that nurture is expressed and are a strong emotion running through some of the ads we analysed. These qualities are portrayed as easing someone’s burden. In Downy’s ad, we see a dutiful wife patiently guiding her elderly husband who is losing his memory through the rituals of Eid.
  1. Support is portrayed as a more passive but important facet of care. Support is given to both by-products and other characters in the narrative to achieve a better outcome. For instance, a boss provides support to a young couple he managed in Pertamina’s ad while Pocky’s creative showcases a daughter supporting her mother by easing her burden of cleaning so that they can spend more quality time as a family.
  1. Social good has been portrayed as active actions that make people’s lives better. The idea is that individuals matter, and small actions have big impacts. We see a young woman providing monetary support to a struggling middle-aged entrepreneur so that she can improve her circumstances in Wardah’s ad. Meanwhile, in McDonald’s ad, a young family includes an elderly man in their celebrations alleviating his loneliness and bringing connection.

Figure 1.0 shows the Star Rating of the 14 ads, which is based on the degree and intensity of positive emotion toward an ad. It predicts the potential of an ad to contribute to long-term brand growth if invested in and runs from 1.0 to 5.9-Stars. The higher the Star Rating, the more brands should invest in and build campaigns around the ad.


The most effective ads take consumers on an emotional journey. Doing so can keep the viewer engaged while also helping with short-term activation. According to Daniel Kahneman’s peak-end rule, people remember an experience as an average of its peak and its end. An ad where positive emotion hits a plateau early, rather than reaching a climax later, is pulling its punches. Storytelling is such a powerful tool for film-based advertising because it leads audiences to an emotional finish.

Ramadan ads often follow four main story themes, including:


  1. Stories about families

These ads tend to focus on both nuclear and intergenerational families. The family becomes the central focus of the narrative to communicate different emotions and highlight the importance of families in many ways. For instance, while there is no tension in the Indomie ad, the climax is a moment of togetherness and the joy of sharing a simple meal together.

Sadness can be evoked to great effect in commercial advertising, but it does need to be resolved. Sadness signals the need for help, comfort, and resolution. If brands can create and resolve sadness in an ad, it can be remarkably effective. In Coca-Cola’s ad, the main theme is putting differences aside to come together as a family. The story’s tension is in the fallout between a son and father/uncle and how resolution and togetherness are achieved. The setting is an important meal where the extended family has come together and how the resolution is negotiated through the meal. The climax is when resolution is achieved, and the hostess can be proud of the way the dinner has mended family tensions.

  1. Stories about community

These ads highlight stories about workspaces or diversity of lives rather than putting one family or individual at the centre of the narrative. The Pertamina ad portrays the workplace as a close-knit community that supports one another, and it showcases a story that evokes community belonging and being appreciated. Here, the tension is in a sacrifice that is redeemed with recognition and appreciation.

  1. Stories about creating positive change

The main tenor of Wardah’s Ramadan ad is about empowerment and spreading good and kindness in the world. The protagonist rights a wrong and focuses on empowering someone less fortunate than her. The social message is one about spreading kindness as a message of beauty and Ramadan.

Similarly, the main emotional tenor of Pocky’s ad is one of care and righting a wrong. The story arc moves between two main protagonists – the daughter and the mother. The daughter realizes that she wants to spend time with her family and eat together, but cleaning is time-consuming for her mother and results in less time together. She introduces her mother to a healthy, light, and easy-to-clean snack – Pocky. The mother realizes and enumerates the benefits of this new discovery. The climax is time they can spend together as a family, something not possible before, enabled by Pocky.

  1. Stories about creating excitement

These stories are often constructed without tension. Their main point is to communicate excitement or newness about a product. For example, Oreo’s story is about engaging with play and staying young. The story follows a child at play and mimics his excitement at discovering an exciting new taste. The mother and father also join him in play – being youthful together and enjoying themselves as a family.

In Energen’s ad, the story arc is about the discovery of a tasty and healthy drink that will support the family’s fasting. The father identifies the right fruit for fasting while the mother introduces her family to the right product. The rest of the story follows the family’s excitement at tasting the drink. And in Pocari Sweat’s commercial, the mood is joyful, playful, and fantasy-like. The story follows a young mother and son who transform into magical beings and spread joy while fasting until they finish their journey in the mosque. The product occupies the frame throughout the ad and is the medium to be playful and joyful even while fasting.

Don’t miss part 2 of our blog here, detailing the impact of Characters, Fluency and Soundtrack in Ramadan ads.