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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Ramadan 2018: Zain TV spot tackles Arab world's biggest crisis 

Kuwaiti telecoms firm drives home a point with an almost 4-minute advertisement

A screesnhot of Zain Ramadan 2018 Commercial. Courtesy Joy Productions / Zain
A screesnhot of Zain Ramadan 2018 Commercial. Courtesy Joy Productions / Zain

The Kuwaiti telecoms company Zain's latest Ramadan television advertisement features a young refugee boy singing to lookalikes of some the world’s most powerful leaders, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel.

In the first scene, the young boy wishes Mr Trump "Ramadan Kareem" and invites him to iftar at his house, “if he can find it in the debris”.

The subsequent scenes show series of world leaders taking part in the despondent boy’s life, with Mr Putin dining with his family, some of whom have lost limbs.

Ms Merkel is shown watching as refugees crammed onto inflatable boats paddling with their hands towards a European shore.

Next, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks in at the boy’s bedroom as it transforms from what looks like an Ikea-catalogue to a room into rubble, while subsequent scenes show the refugee crisis created by the Myanmar military's crackdown on the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

The final scenes scene depict the boy visiting an imprisoned little girl — a lookalike of Ahed Al Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian activist sentenced to eight months in jail by Israel. He breaks the lock on her cell and they leave hand in hand. The next shot is of them walking towards the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem singing: “Our Iftar will be in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine.”

Zain has been screening public service advertisement in this fashion since the late 2000s. Its latest advertisement was released on Wednesday, two days after the US administration transferred its embassy to Jerusalem, reversing decades of policy by declaring the Holy City Israel’s capital.

The closing scene has the boy and girl walking hand in hand towards Al Aqsa Mosque, flanked by six men wearing traditional Arabian Gulf clothes, representing the six leaders of the GCC countries.

Joy Productions, the Kuwaiti studio behind the advertisement, has been producing Zain’s commercials for almost a decade.

Zain's Ramadan advertisement last year, by the same director, tackled the topic of suicide bombing and terrorist attacks and became an overnight viral hit in the Arab World, with 13 million views so far.

It juxtaposed a suicide bomber on his way to detonate himself confronted with the maimed and bloody bodies of bombing victims.

This year’s advertisement had more than a million views on its first day and will likely be shown in 30-second to 60-second clips.

Ramadan is Arab television’s busiest season, with advertising rates at a premium.