McDonald's Saudi Arabia Turned Drive-Thru Screens into Iftar Hourglasses

Like a puzzle you don't have to finish yourself

This weekend marked the end of Ramadan, the month-long period when Muslims the world over fast from sunup to sundown, with nary a glass of water to slake the body's thirst.

Ramadan also means Iftar, the fast-breaking that happens every night at sundown. In a pre-2020 world, this often meant big, lavish meals shared with family members, strangers, even whole neighborhoods. Half the fun of a feast, after all, is the fête.

These days, Iftar's more of a conservative affair, as impacted by the pandemic as everything else. Forget the big public spreads or bustling movement from place to place by night; it's all about home delivery, drive-thru services, and—for people who can still bear socializing this way—Zoom.

Ever advancing in this brave new world, McDonald's in Saudi Arabia worked with Leo Burnett KSA to produce the Ramadan Iftar Sand Clock, a series of digital hourglasses that appeared on drive-thru screens and Instagram Stories all day, helping fast observers count down to meal time. 

As a kind of psychic reward, the falling sands produce the image of a classic McD's staple.

McDonald's Iftar Sand Clock - Ramadan 2020

Each Iftar Sand Clock takes 12 hours to complete, in keeping with the fasting period. This is deceptively simple work that conveys useful information with obvious brand value … but there's also more to it.

To start, food brands in Saudi Arabia can't advertise during Ramadan, which makes this a sly workaround.

"Ramadan in Saudi Arabia is a challenge for every food company," Leo Burnett KSA's creative director, Saadi Alkouatli, tells Muse. "What's special for me is being able to help McDonald's communicate in a time where food brands are not allowed to, while also being empathetic to our fasting consumers."

There's a thoughtful insight packed in here that's difficult to fully appreciate unless you're sitting in a hot car in the desert, tapping your warm steering wheel in the drive-thru line. People get grumpy and impatient as sundown draws near. They congregate in restaurants or wait in their cars, just biding those last few grains of time.

But the Iftar Sand Clocks give you something to focus on that's more stimulating than a digital countdown. Your eyes can follow the sand, measuring that little burger's progress toward completion. And when that last grain finally falls, completing the image, there's a nice dopamine ding—the satisfaction of seeing the image in full, as if you somehow contributed to the task. 

In the five minutes that elapses before that happens, maybe you even forget time a little, drifting into that state that Ramadan is really all about: the meditative contemplation of what it is to be in a mortal body. 

"Who said you can't have your burger and eat it too?" Alkouatli quips.


Chief Creative Officer: Mohammed Bahmishan
Creative Director: Saadi Alkouatli
Creative Director: Mohammed Sehly
Creative Director: Alexandre Choucaire
Art Director: Jose Pedro Bortolini
Copywriter: Mohammad Omeira
UI: Mustafa El Lakkis
Chief Operating officer: Thamer Alfarsi 
Regional Managing Director: Mazen Mitri
Group Account Director: Fady Yamak
Account Supervisor: Mohamad Hijazi
Digital Delivery Director: Georges Matta
Production Company: Prodigious MEA
Music: Canja Audio Culture
Animation: Optix Dubai

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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