DOs and DON’Ts of Advertising to Southeast Asia’s Vibrant Muslim Communities

Hari Raya Puasa Celebration in Malaysia (1)

Hari Raya Puasa Celebration in Malaysia

Source: Asia-Places To See


Islam is the most widely practiced religion here in Southeast Asia, having approximately 240 million Muslims in Southeast Asia, making up to about 42% of the total Southeast Asia population and 25% of the total world Muslim population, which is estimated to be about 1.6 billion. There are more Muslims living in Indonesia than in any other part of the world, with 88% of its population of 234 million people being Muslim. There are 67% Muslims in Brunei, 58% in Malaysia, 14% in Singapore, and about 5% or less in the Philippines, East Timor and in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.The ‘Vibrant Muslim Community’ In Southeast Asia


Though there are common practices, there isn’t a ‘stereotypical’ Muslim, as different sects and regions practice the religion differently (For instance, Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated differently in Indonesia compared to how it is in Malaysia, and it will be different too in the Middle East).
Common practices during Hari Raya Puasa are visiting relatives and friends, seeking forgiveness, grave visitation, giving “Zakaat ul Fitr” or alms for the poor, and also giving money and gifts to children and neighbours.

Hari Raya Puasa, also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Eid il Fitr in the Middle East) or theFestival of Breaking the Fast, is the celebration that falls on the first day of the 10th month on the Islamic Calendar. This concludes the 29 or 30 days of the month ofRamadan, the month of fasting from dawn to sunset for all Muslims. Hari Raya Puasa is an important religious holiday celebrated by all Muslims around the world. It follows the sighting of the new moon which signifies the end of Ramadan.


Bubur Lambuk

During Ramadan, the mosques also give out “Bubur Lambuk”, also known as “Bubur Masjid” – direct translated to “Mosque Porridge”, which is free for everyone to partake in, including those who are non-Muslim.

Source: Singapore Local Favorites


Terawih at Masjid Sultan

They also have daily gatherings for prayer sessions known as “Terawih” which are held after sunset after the breaking of their fasts. Shown here: “Terawih” at Masjid Sultan
Source: Go Beyond


Ramadan is also known as the month of purity. Apart from refraining from eating and drinking, they must also refrain from personal vices such as smoking, swearing, lying and cheating. It provides for Muslims a good opportunity to rid themselves of all things perceived as unclean and a time to come up with new resolutions and changes for the better.


Since all Muslims follow the Islamic lunar calendar, all countries in Southeast Asia celebrate Hari Raya Puasa at the same time. This does however depend on moon sightings in some countries, which may result in a 1-2 days difference. In most Southeast Asia countries, Hari Raya Puasa is a national holiday which is filled with joy and excitement. The preparations for the celebration of Hari Raya Puasa, however, do not only begin on the day itself, but are done much earlier on at the start of the Ramadan period. In particular, the Muslims in Singapore do lots of shopping during Ramadan and often visit the local Bazaar Ramadan at Geylang Serai, which is a one-stop shopping location for new clothes, furniture and house decoration, all in preparation for the day of celebration on Hari Raya Puasa.


Terawih at Masjid Sultan

Bazaar Ramadan at Geylang Serai

Source: Travel Cities

Stall at Geylang Serai Selling Traditional Malay Costumes

Stall at Geylang Serai Selling Traditional Malay Costumes
Source: Shopping In Focus


On the morning of Hari Raya Puasa itself, the men will first visit the mosque to pray (for some families, the women also visit the mosques too). After which, they will congratulate and embrace one another in the spirit of Islam. They then return to their families and hold an extremely lavish breakfast where traditional dishes such as Ketupat, Lontong, Rendang and Kuah Lodeh are prepared in abundance. This is followed by the visitation of family members and relatives going from the eldest to the youngest family members. For some, graves visitation is done after going to the mosques.


Things To Avoid at All Costs When Advertising to Muslims


There are a few main things that are strictly prohibited for all Muslims. We must be aware of religious sensitivities to respect the culture. These things would include nudity, alcohol, pig-related products and gambling. The distribution and promotion of such products and elements are prohibited in Muslim societies. Likewise, when advertising to Muslims, particularly in countries with majority of its population being Muslim, these are some of the things that advertisers must be sensitive to and should avoid.


1) Nudity

Firstly, the advertisements shown in any form of advertising media must not have any trace of nudity in them. Furthermore, the standards of what is considered nudity for the Muslim society greatly differ from that of Western culture. Female models must be covered until the neckline and the length of the skirt worn should be below the knees. While the arms may be exposed up to the edge of the shoulder, the armpits cannot be exposed.


The following advertisement shown above for a Dubai tourist resort is an excellent example of the tightrope that advertisers walk in Islamic countries. If the advertisement in question was promoting a Western resort, the model may have been dressed in a bikini, perhaps!


A Dubai Tourist Resort Advertisement

A Dubai Tourist Resort Advertisement
Source: Business Insider


2) Alcohol

Prohibition of Alcohol-containing Products

Prohibition of Alcohol-containing Products
Source: Live Strong


Secondly, advertisers should refrain from promoting any products that contain alcohol as all types of alcohol and other intoxicating substances are not permitted according to the Muslim dietary law.


The level of strictness for alcohol prohibition for Muslims may vary between different countries in Southeast Asia. In some Muslim countries, not only are Muslims not permitted to consume alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer, but they are also not allowed to use anything that contains slight alcohol content. For example, mouthwashes that contain alcohol to kill germs, would hence also be forbidden in such countries. As a result, companies that serve the Muslim consumer market often need to take careful steps to reassure them that all of their products, not just food, are halal or permissible under Islam, by having them officially certified. In particular, Colgate-Palmolive claims to be the first international company to have obtained halal certification in Malaysia for toothpaste and mouthwash products. Colgate’s products now bear the halal logo.


In other countries, a Muslim coming into contact with alcohol may be allowed on a case to case basis. For example, the use of alcohol swabs for disinfecting wounds or for healing purposes. However, the use of alcohol still remains strictly impermissible if for the wrong purposes.


3) Pig-related Products 

Similar to the Jewish tradition, pig meat and pig-related products are not allowed under Muslim dietary restrictions. This includes everything from a pig, which including pork, bacon, ham, lard, and even small traces of additives such as gelatin from the bones of pigs make food impure and therefore impermissible for a Muslim to eat. Food such as marshmallows, cream cheese as well as many kinds of gummy candy contain gelatin and are not allowed to be consumed by Muslims, though nowadays there are those which use halal ingredients and chemicals and are allowed.


Prohibition of Pig-related Products

Prohibition of Pig-related Products
Source: Live Strong

4) Gambling

Prohibition of Gambling

Prohibition of Gambling
Source: Money Crux


Lastly, companies should also avoid the advertising and promotion of products that deal with “riba” or usury, gambling and haram earnings, such as advertisements for riba-based banks, insurance companies and manufacturers, and stores that sell haram things as it is against the Muslim principles.


Therefore, when companies advertise their products to the Muslim society, it is crucial that they do not include such elements in their promotions. Companies should be extremely sensitive and careful not to promote anything related to their religious taboos.


Ramadan Brings Additional Restrictions, but also New Opportunities to Advertising


1) Food & Beverage

In light of the cultural sensitivity that is required of companies who are targeting the Muslim consumer market, during the period of Ramadan, there are indeed certain ways in which companies can tailor their advertisements specifically to suit this occasion. For example, in some countries, food stores will cover their windows during Ramadan so that people who are fasting during daylight will not be tempted to break their fast prematurely. In particular, McDonalds in Indonesia has a range of tactics specifically for Ramadan, which include only showing burgers that are wrapped and not “naked” from the grill.


McDonalds Wrapped Ramadhan Campaign in Indonesia

McDonalds Wrapped Ramadhan Campaign in Indonesia
Source: Business Insider

2) Travel and Hospitality Services

It is not uncommon for Muslims to travel around to visit their families and overseas relatives during Ramadan. Travel agencies and car rental services would definitely have good opportunities to boost their sales and revenues by increasing advertisements and putting up promotions during this time of the year. This is to cater to the needs of Muslim customers who are seeking to travel – like the famous term of ‘balik kampung’ which literally means going home to their families. This is especially so for countries with a large population of Muslims such as Indonesia and Malaysia.


3) Fashion & Retail

Other companies that could benefit from increased advertising and promotions during Ramadan are those that produce and sell traditional Malay clothes. This is because during the one month period of Ramadan, there is a mad hunt for new clothes in preparation for the huge celebration of Hari Raya Puasa. These Malay costumes include clothes such as their traditional kain samping, jubah, baju kurung, kebaya as well songkok for the guys. This time of the year would be the peak season of clothes shopping for Muslims.


4) Home Décor & Furniture

Another industry that would flourish through advertising during Ramadan is the industry that deals with home decorations. This refers to companies that provide new furniture, curtains, wall paint, tablecloths and other house decoration products such as the “lampu lap lip” or LED lights which are put up both at the entrances and on the insides of Muslim households during Hari Raya Puasa. This is because Hari Raya Puasa is also a time of ritualistic cleansing and Muslim households usually take this time as a good opportunity to redecorate their homes.


Lampu Lap Lip

Lampu Lap Lip
Source: Nabbycat – WordPress

Sources and References

There are many other industries apart from those mentioned above that have other great opportunities to promote their products during Ramadan and the list is not exhaustive. Ultimately, the number of different ways that companies can use Ramadan as a platform for new opportunities in advertising is limited only by the creativity and innovation of individual companies.


In conclusion, the Muslim consumer market in Southeast Asia is one that is extremely large and vibrant with growing opportunities, especially in countries whereby majority of the population is Muslim. As the month of Ramadan approaches from the 18th of June all the way till the 17th of July this year, outdoor media can provide great avenues and opportunities for advertising through interesting and eye-catching Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertisements.


As an outdoor media owner, TPM Outdoor also owns several OOH media sites all around Southeast Asia. TPM Outdoor has presence in a large part of Southeast Asia and particularly so in Indonesia, where we provide excellent, eye-catching and highly visible sites and locations that are able to deliver powerful messages to the public.


In conjunction with this festive season, TPM Outdoor’s Indonesia arm is providing advertisers with attractive seasonal packs and promotional bundles for the Indonesian market. One of such packages is the Jakarta Airport Domestic Package. During this season, many Indonesian locals travel by air to visit their families. This surge of travel means that the number of people using the Jakarta Airport will peak. The Jakarta Airport Domestic Package thus well suits companies targeting the vast number of Indonesians travelling back to visit their families during this peak period. Companies that purchase the Jakarta Airport Domestic Package are also able to save more than 15% of the usual market rates.
At the same time, during this period, TPM Outdoor Singapore is also offering timely promotions such as our Great Singapore Sale (GSS) Seasonal Packs for both individual sales, as well as special media packages for our sites. Most of our seasonal packs can help companies to save up to 60% of the usual market rate for outdoor advertising. Your outdoor media sites can be reserved with us by contacting our Singapore office at (+65) 6273 0556, our Indonesia office at (+62) 778 412 600 or through


Outdoor media is an extremely powerful tool that is used to advertise and send high impact messages. People are drawn to outdoor media because it is highly visible, eye-catching and are extremely cost effective. The season of Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa provides a timely opportunity for companies to promote their products and services and key promotions they have during this period. With good on-ground knowledge about the Muslim consumer market, TPM Outdoor is here to help these companies achieve their goals and to move to greater heights and success through brilliant outdoor advertising.,0’_views/links/00b7d516f51954a0fc000000.pdf


TPM OUTDOOR is an Outdoor Media group with more than 100 media locations in South East Asia. Headquartered in Singapore, TPM Outdoor has subsidiary companies in Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam and affiliate offices in the Philippines and South Asia. We take pride in providing our clients with:


– On-ground local expertise, offices, people & billing in rapidly developing Asian Markets;

– Years of proven experience and know-how for regional and local implementations;

– Impactful, eye-catching solutions at prime locations to reach the right people.


Contact us for a no-obligations chat at 6273 0556 or



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