Ad Critique

A surprising twist: products at the crossroads of faith and fun

6, September, 2013


Brand: Barbican non-alcoholic malt beverage | Region: Middle East


The context:

The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Islam. But young Muslims seek alternatives in terms of flavour and perceived lifestyle. With beers and alcoholic drinks seen as modern, fun and edgy, it’s no surprise that non-alcoholic equivalents are becoming increasingly popular among Muslim Futurists. According to The Economist: “Last year 2.2 billion litres [of non-alcoholic beer] was downed, 80% more than five years earlier. [...] But in the Middle East, which now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales, the target market is the teetotal majority. In 2012 Iranians quaffed nearly four times as much as in 2007. Consumers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also have a growing taste for it.”

The concept

Barbican non-alcoholic beer’s series of adverts focuses on a group of young men, bonding over traditional activities, pushing the boundaries of edginess, but within a non-alcoholic reference frame. The adverts were aired across Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern countries. The first looks at creating ownership over the bottle shape, which led to a more traditional alcoholic beer look. The rest focus on young male bonding activities typical for the region, and which do not contravene religious and cultural mores. The first is a road trip to the desert, the next a ‘pimp my ride’ style show, and finally an inaugural group outing to Dubai to have fun. The non-alcoholic beer is at the centre of the high-octane fun and energetic adverts, creating group bonds and feeding the taste for new modern experiences.

What we liked:

Muslim Futurists see no contradiction between enjoying products and what they see as modernity, and maintaining the limits of their faith boundaries. Products like non-alcoholic beer are seen to sit squarely among many on the crossroads of faith and fun. This is re-inforced by the activities highlighted in the adverts. It’s worth noting that in one of the adverts, the line of ‘acceptable’ does become blurred as might be perceived by stricter Muslim consumers by the young men interacting with women. However, overall, the adverts are a reflection of the energy of Muslim Futurists and their enthusiasm for embracing the world and modernity, the hunger to cross borders, boundaries and cultures, all the while maintaining faith values.