Reflecting on Ramadan: 5 Keys to Effective Ads (Part 2)

The month-long Ramadan observance is marked by a heightened sense of community and togetherness. It is a time to strengthen bonds with family and friends and to foster a sense of unity. One of the most significant ways in which Muslims come together during Ramadan is through the breaking of the fast, or iftar. Iftar is a time for sharing food and exchanging stories. It is not uncommon to invite neighbours or those less fortunate for iftar, reflecting the spirit of generosity that is central to 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.

Don’t miss part 1 of our blog here, in which we cover the Emotion and Story components of Ramadan ads. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at three other essentials: Characters, Fluency and Soundtrack.


  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?


Family and togetherness are highly valued in Indonesian culture because they provide a sense of identity and belonging. Family is seen as the foundation of society and a source of strength and support. Meanwhile, community is reflected in the many social and cultural events that are an opportunity for people to come together, share experiences and celebrate their common values and beliefs.

The focus on family and togetherness extends to advertising and marketing as well. Unsurprisingly, many of the Ramadan advertisements in Indonesia feature families because the themes of community and togetherness resonate strongly with audiences and serve as a powerful tool for connecting with them.

Some of the other character-related themes that stood out in the Ramadan ads include:


  1. Intergenerational interaction and play: Many of the ads (Telkomsel, McDonald’s, Nestle) focus on intergenerational engagement and communication and are portrayed in a positive light.
  1. The recurring trope of the “lonely old man”: The figure of an elderly man who has already lived life is a common trope among many ads. He is represented in many manifestations as one who is now longing for connection with his children (McDonald’s); is feeling nostalgic, with a focus on the circle of life (Khong Guan); experiences illness and feels disconnected from loved ones (McDonald’s); the centre of one’s family and support system (Telkomsel, Nestle).
  1. Women in traditional roles: Except for Wardah’s ad, women are in most cases depicted in the domestic sphere or in traditional caregiving roles. Women are often in domestic spaces like kitchens (Pocky, Energen), seen arranging household things (Indomie), doing domestic work (Khong Guan) and caregiving for elderly men (Downy) or children (Oreo, Pocari Sweat). Only in one ad is the invisible work of women questioned, which brings tension to the narrative (Pocky).
  1. Children as an essential indicator of a happy and complete family: The role of children is important in many of the ads and is often used to communicate a happy urban family (Energen, Telkomsel, McDonald’s). Even if children are represented as grown-up – the parent-child relationship is an important theme (Khong Guan, Downy, Pocky) and emerges as a point of bringing tension to some narratives.
  1. Products as characters: In many ads, the products themselves appear as important characters in the narrative. For instance, in the Coca-Cola and Telkomsel ads, products are portrayed as part of the family. Other product roles that are explored in the ads include: they relate to the past and keep the present rooted to a different time and sense of home (Khong Guan); they are a channel by which to be close (Indomie) and spend time with one another (Telkomsel, Coca-Cola); and photographs are often used as a device of time – a mechanism for forging continuity (Downy, Khong Guan, Nippon paints)


At System1, we measure brand fluency in two ways:


  1. The 5-second fluency score reveals the percentage of viewers that know the brand after 5 seconds. It is designed specifically for online video advertising, where it’s particularly important to refresh memory early with the help of distinctive assets.
  2. The time-weighted fluency score shows how recognisable the brand was across the duration of the ad. A score of 100% would require the entire sample to get the brand right from the very first second.

The Energen and Khong Guan ads were the only commercials that achieved exceptional 5-second fluency as well as time-weighted fluency, beating out Asia’s speed-of-branding average of 57. Both ads leveraged the brand’s distinctive assets within the first 5 seconds. According to Byron Sharp, ‘distinctive assets improve advertising effectiveness by making it more likely that viewers will correctly identify which brand the advertising belongs to. In a shopping environment, distinctive assets make it easier for consumers to notice and purchase a brand.’

Energen (Speed of branding: 78)

Nippon Paint (Speed of branding: 72)

Although the Pertamina and Coca-Cola ads achieved 98% and 97% time-weighted fluency, the moment when fluency increased the most was much after the 5-second mark.



The Nestle ad achieved the lowest speed of branding score (47) and performed poorly across both Fluency measures. Typically, 15-second ads struggle to generate huge levels of emotion. However, the ad managed to buck the trend and evoked a positive emotional response and high emotional intensity.


Music is an incredibly powerful component in advertising – not just for how popular the track is, but also how it fits and complements the visual storyline that is playing out. In Orlando Wood’s books Lemon and Look out, he highlights the impact that music has on ad effectiveness.

Music with discernible melody appeals to the right brain and is more likely to enhance long-term brand building than rhythmic music that appeals more to the narrow attention of the left brain. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the number of ads featuring music with a discernible melody.

With music having a noticeable influence on viewers’ emotional responses, there’s pressure on brands and creative teams to choose the right soundtrack. Get it wrong and an ad may not strike an emotional chord or be memorable enough. Get it really wrong and your soundtrack may even annoy audiences, causing them to put your ad on mute or change the channel. Pre-testing the same ad with different tracks can showcase which will be more successful at brand building.

The majority of the Ramadan ads we tested rely on music and voiceovers to create tension and drama. Music is part of every ad in some form but to different degrees.


  1. Melodic music

    Some ads rely heavily on music and non-verbal cues (Nestle, Wardah, Oreo, Indomie, and McDonald’s). In McDonald’s ad, the tenor of the music is upbeat, and the soundtrack incorporates natural elements – sounds of the sea, waves, and wind. Laughter, natural sounds, and voices connected through the music give a sense of food, family, interaction, and the brand and nature as being closely connected.

    In Oreo’s ad, the music is upbeat and playful. There is no verbal interaction between the characters, so the music underlines the emotions and provides space to weave in the attributes of the product. With Indomie’s spot, the music is melodic and engaging. There is not much conversation between the characters – music is the main medium of communicating emotions.

  1. Voiceover

    From System1’s ad testing, we know that noticeable voiceovers tend to kill emotional response to the creative – it can make the visuals in an ad subservient to words. At worst it explains the ad to an unnecessary degree, robbing the right brain of the opportunity to make connections by itself and thus losing its attention. Unfortunately, most of the Ramadan ads rely heavily on voice-overs to create tension and drama. In the ads for Pocky, Khong Guan, Energen and Coca-Cola, the voiceover/ narration dominates the soundtrack rather than the conversation.
  1. Highly rhythmic soundtrack

    The left brain’s love of repetition also explains its preference for rhythmic soundtracks. If the ad has a steady, monotonous beat, it qualifies, particularly if it’s dictating the pace of the visual action. The soundtrack in the Pocari Sweat ad is an example of this. While the music is well-modulated and adapted to every scene, the rhythm is the dominant element in the soundtrack and dictates the pace of the ad.