Marketing activities (basically advertisements) today can be divided into three segments – Above the Line (ATL), Below the Line (BTL), & Through the Line (TTL) Marketing. The line was originally used to separate marketing activities which had mass penetration (above the line) to those which had specific penetration (below the line). But then, because of the increased competition and development in technology, emerged through the line marketing activities which blurs the line and include the use of both ATL & BTL advertising activities.
ATL, BTL, & TTL Advertising
Advertising activities can be differentiated on the basis of marketing motives, target groups, and the budget of the marketer.
Above the Line
Above the Line advertising (often referred to as Above the Line promotion/ Above the Line marketing/ ATL marketing/ ATL advertising) consists of advertising activities that are largely non-targeted and have a wide reach. ATL communication is done to build the brand and inform the customers about the product. Conversions are given less importance in above the line advertising.
To make it simpler-
Above the line marketing includes mass marketing strategies which are largely untargeted and are focused on building the brand.
By ‘untargeted’ we mean that the communication isn’t directed towards a specific group. The mediums convey the message to everyone who has access to them.
Examples of Above the Line Promotion
An average American watches 4.3 hours of TV in a day. It’s a similar case with the rest of the world. TV advertisements have a reach from local, to national, and international audience depending on the TV channel and the contract between the parties. TV advertisements have a better connection with the users as moving images with audio are preferred over still images or audio alone.
Psychologists tell us that consumers need to be exposed to an advertising message at least three times before it begins to penetrate. No other media other than radio provide such affordability when it comes to this frequency.
Radio is a perfect option for marketers to fulfil all the frequency and creative demands of an advertisement. Radio to have a local, national, and international reach just like TVs.
Print Advertisements (magazine & newspaper)
Local, regional and national print media has a wider reach than any of the other mediums. Newspapers have fixed ad-slots that are used by marketers to inform customers / prospective customers about the brand or offers.
Magazines exist in niches and make it easier for marketers to reach their niche directly through them.
Outdoor advertising is usually done in public places and is constantly on display, have a greater reach depending on the locations. They include Flags, Banners, Wraps, Billboards, etc.
Advantages of Above the line marketing
- Wider Reach: Above the line advertising mediums have a wide (national/international) reach.
- Better Connect with the audience: The mediums like TV and radio use audio-visuals which have a better connect with the audience.
- Brand Building: Media advertising is a crucial tool in defining and realizing brand identity. A brand is built by the customers. The role of marketers in brand building is to reach as many prospective customers as they can and communicate to them about the brand and its benefits creatively. Above the line marketing, hence, plays an integral role when it comes to brand building.
Below the Line
Below-the-line advertising (often referred to as Below the Line promotion/ Below the Line marketing / BTL marketing / BTL advertising) consists of very specific, memorable and direct advertising activities focused on targeted groups of consumers. Often known as direct marketing strategies, below the line strategies focus more on conversions than on building the brand.
To make it simpler –
Below the line marketing includes direct marketing strategies directed to specific target groups and focused on conversions rather than building the brand.
Examples of Below the Line Promotion
Direct Mail Marketing
One of the most personal strategies used by marketers, direct mails (e-mails, text messages, etc.) are tailor-made messages about the brand or different offers drafted according to the needs of each customer. Hence this BTL strategy could result in more conversions if planned properly.
Sponsorship is a partnership with different corporates or events to get more impressions and is usually carried as a part of brand building strategies at a BTL level.
Brand Activation is the art of driving consumer action through brand interaction and experiences. The key aim of these campaigns is to get consumers to act and to bring brands to life via experiences and forming long-term emotional connections.
Marketing activities done within the retail store are called In-store marketing activities. These below the line activities make use of various point of sales to get the most return out of the investments.
Advantages of Below the line marketing
- Extremely Targeted: Conversions are better when the communication is done according to the customer wants. Since BTL marketing strategies are extremely targeted, results are better in terms of conversions.
- Better ROI: Below the line promotional efforts are focused on the specific target group, have a better reach, can be easily executed, tracked, and controlled. Hence BTL strategies provide a better ROI and MROI in terms of conversion.
- Easy Control: The return from these activities can be easily tracked and monitored and steps can be taken to improve ROI.
- Tailor-Made: Below the line advertising strategies are designed according to the needs of a specific target group and hence can be moulded differently for different customer groups.
Through the Line
Through the Line advertising (often referred to as Through the Line promotion/ Through the Line marketing / TTL marketing / TTL advertising) involves the use of both ATL & BTL marketing strategies. The recent consumer trend in the market requires the integration of both ATL & BTL strategies for better results.
To make it simper-
Through the marketing involves marketers to create marketing campaigns which include both ATL & BTL strategies. It refers to 360-degree advertising where campaigns are developed with the vision of brand building as well as conversions.
Sometimes above the line strategies are used to execute their direct marketing strategies. This too comes under TTL marketing.
Examples of Through the Line Promotion
Marketing strategies can be planned and carried out with an integrated approach of using both ATL & BTL advertising mediums to get the maximum advantage. Most of the marketing campaigns today are TTL campaigns.
It is possible to carry out a digital marketing strategy which offers above the line marketing benefits while acting as a below the line communication to the customer. This type of advertising is cookie based. Users get highly personalized communication based on their needs/wants/choices. This strategy has a better ROI and is considered better by the consumer.
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think about our article on Above the Line (ATL), Below the Line (BTL), & Through the Line (TTL) Marketing in the comments section.
A startup consultant, a dreamer, a traveller, and a philomath. Aashish has worked with over a 100 startups and successfully helped them ideate, raise money, and succeed. When not working, he can be found hiking, camping, and stargazing.