Pepsi’s Virtual Suhours on Instagram Live bring people together even when they are apart

Partner Content - Pepsi reminded us that social distancing does not have to mean social isolation by teaming up Saudi Arabia’s most influential content creators, to host a series of Virtual Suhours on Instagram Live.

Social distancing and Ramadan are two things that could not seem further from one another. The Holy Month is a time of coming together, spending time with family and friends and reinforcing the sense of community that is central to the Islamic world. But during a pandemic it is our duty to that same community to stay as isolated as possible. This is why Pepsi stepped in to remind us that social distancing does not have to mean social isolation.

The popular soft drinks brand found a way to tell its fans that there are still non-commercial ways to catch up and stay connected virtually. Pepsi teamed up with Tareq Al Harbi, one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential content creators, to host a Virtual Suhour on Instagram Live once a week. Tareq was joined online each week by another popular influencer nominated by his followers, and the two talked, joked and played games with their audience and each other through live chat.

The Virtual Suhours were a great way to create an interactive and culturally relevant experience for the influencers’ followers, and to give them back some of what they were missing this Ramadan. It was an example of how a global player managed to balance current events with tradition and the latest technology to remain relevant, rooted and connected.

“I have enjoyed my time with Pepsi during the live suhour sessions during the holy month of Ramadan,” said Al Harbi. “Together we laughed and enjoyed our suhour with the diversity of guests that were chosen for the sessions. Some were specialised in comedy, some in cooking, and we were able to reach a bigger and more diverse audience. Thank you, Pepsi.”

Pepsi’s main objective with the initiative was to drive deeper-level consumer engagement with its target audience – millennials and Generation Z, particularly those aged 19 to 29 – during a completely different Ramadan to the one we once knew, when physical suhours and gatherings were not possible.

Instagram Live offered immediacy and intimacy, but choosing to create the majority of the content of the campaign through live sessions meant none of the content was edited, pre-planned or posed. It is a very new way of creating content that depends on candid performance, genuine surroundings and unfiltered actions. It takes a lot of courage and agility to base the bulk of the campaign on unfiltered, unmasked content.

Luckily, Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) recorded 100 per cent positive sentiment on all the live session and very positive engagement rates. The collaboration offered consumers engaging content through the content creators to entertain and engage them at a challenging time. Consumers accepted that offering and showed Pepsi the risks of producing live content were worth it.

The campaign saw a 6.4-point lift in ad recall and a 1.5-point lift in purchase intent, which is 150 per cent higher than the industry benchmark. The Virtual Suhours gathered an audience of more than 21 million, and generated 1.7 million story views. The total engagement rate ran at an impressive 5.32 per cent.

Having a seamless relationship between Pepsi, Facebook, the creative agency, the influencer management agency and the content creators themselves was vital to the success of a live campaign with many moving parts, all function remotely. It was phenomenally orchestrated, says Facebook, and everybody rose to their roles and responsibilities seamlessly at a time when operating procedures were far from normal.

Schatzi Gheita, PepsiCo Senior Marketing Manager Content, Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia

“At PepsiCo, we’ve allowed the current situation to further strengthen our agility muscle. We were courageous and agile to change our pre-planned Ramadan campaign to lead with a consumer-centric, mobile-first Ramadan platform, Pepsi Virtual Suhour. We listened to consumers and understood they would not be able to gather for their usual Ramadan suhours, so we worked with the region’s top content creators to bring them that sense of gathering and fun virtually.”


Rami Elkerdani, Creative Strategist MEA, Facebook

“In times of crisis, those who adapt and pivot are the ones that change the game. When it comes from a brand like PepsiCo, you can only assume that this is the start of a whole new chapter in mobile advertising.”



Austyn Allison, editor of Campaign Middle East

“The thing that leaps out from this campaign for me is the way Pepsi managed to balance old, new and current in the form of Ramadan traditions, adapted through the possibilities for digital connections using Instagram Live, to cope with the reality of living through lockdown. This was a Ramadan unlike any other, and Pepsi didn’t just adapt to it; they owned it.”

Agency: Impact BBDO Beirut
Account Director: Ramzi Helou
Creative Director: Angelo El Chami
Pepsi song producer: Anghami Originals