The current context forces us in one way or another to find the shortest and quickest solutions, which makes us shorten certain names, use acronyms or symbols and this has extended to communication.
In this sphere, two widely used acronyms are ATL and BTL advertising.
These two terms, ATL and BTL, appeared in the 1950s to distinguish between forms of advertising where agencies received a commission (above the line) and those where agencies were paid a fixed fee (below the line).
Today, between the two types of advertising, the difference is made by the target audience and the marketing (communication) channels they use.
This means that a company’s marketing activities (basically, advertising) can be divided into three segments:
- Above the line marketing – ATL
- Below the line marketing – BTL
- Marketing Through the Line – TTL
The concept of “line” was originally used to separate marketing activities that have mass penetration (above the “line” – ATL) from those that have specific penetration (below the “line” – BTL).
Later, due to increased competition and technological development, through the line marketing (TTL) emerged, which blurs the line between ATL and BTL by using strategies specific to both marketing channels.
ATL, BTL and TTL advertising
Marketing activities carried out by a business can be differentiated based on marketing motives, target groups and budget.
Above the line Marketing (ATL Marketing)
ATL Marketing campaigns spread brand information through traditional marketing channels and address a very broad target audience.
Therefore, most of the time, the objectives of this type of marketing campaigns are:
- brand reinforcement
- general information on products or services
Above-the-line advertising (often referred to as “above-the-line promotion”, “above-the-line marketing”, ATL Marketing or ATL Advertising) consists of advertising activities that use traditional promotional media to convey information, such as:
- print media
- brochures, etc.
At this stage it is clear that conversions are less important in this marketing channel, communication is not directed to a specific niche group, but the message is transmitted to all those who have access to the medium through which the advertising message is delivered.
Why choose ATL?
ATL in marketing is a great tool for brand development and investing in lasting brand recognition in the market in general. Delivery and placement are essential. The result can be very valuable for any new business and existing operations looking to develop their target audience and demand.
This method can increase market penetration rates, in ATL advertising rates are higher than any other advertising method due to the fact that it caters to a mass marketing segment.
ATL is definitely an excellent solution for start-up businesses, and an ATL marketing channel can work for a long time when combined with other methods. There’s a clear reason why many brands and companies still use ATL in the digital age, and this proves that it works.
Advantages of Above the Line Marketing:
- Provides a wide reach (national or international).
- Connect with potential customers.
- Brand building.
- Benefits of Above the Line Marketing:
- Provides broad reach (national or international).
ATL media has an enormous reach. For example, a 30-second ad spot during the 2018 Superbowl final cost about $5 million. That’s because the game had an audience of over 111 million viewers , in the US alone. And because Superbowl commercials have become as important as the game itself, more and more people are paying attention to this kind of advertising.
Connecting with potential customers
A better connection with the audience: media such as television and radio use a mix of sound and images to convey messages that are more likely to be conveyed to the audience than static images.
An important tool in defining brand identity is media advertising, as a brand is ultimately recognised by customers. Therefore, ATL advertising plays an essential role in building brand reputation, as it helps marketers reach as many potential customers as possible and informs them about the product or service and its benefits.
Disadvantages of ATL
But there are also some disadvantages. Firstly, offline ATL mass promotion is definitely more expensive than online campaigns. A single advertisement in a broad popular medium such as television could be worth millions.
There is always fierce competition, between companies who want the best TV advertising space, with top brands and agencies usually running during prime time, as they are able to sustain this investment.
This financial aspect leads us to the second disadvantage: it is impossible to correctly calculate the impact and return on investment (ROI). So it is not a measurable investment.
And this makes it difficult to plan a budget for marketing communication channels or a long-term strategy.
What does BTL – Below the Line – mean?
Below the Line advertising, or BTL advertising (often referred to as “below the line promotion”, “below the line marketing” or BTL Marketing), consists of very specific, memorable and direct advertising activities focused on ultra-targeted consumer groups.
BTL Marketing campaigns comprise ‘unconventional’ marketing channels that target a well-established mass of people.
This type of campaign is highly creative and aims to make potential customers interact directly with the brand (product or service) being promoted.
Also known as “direct marketing strategies”, BTL focuses significantly more on conversions than brand building.
The main communication platforms used in BTL Marketing are:
- outdoor advertising (street banners)
- direct mail marketing (emails, sms, etc.)
- sponsorships (companies, events, projects, etc.)
- brand activations (memorable interactions and experiences)
- in-store marketing (in-store marketing) and much more.
Why choose BTL?
BTL marketing has many advantages over ATL. The bonds and relationships created between brands and consumers are stronger and longer lasting. This is because audience engagement in this kind of campaign is huge, and emotional attachment generates a loyal and consistent customer community.
This alone is enough to bring value to a business. But it should be mentioned that BTL marketing strategies and campaigns are usually much cheaper and more accessible, allowing small and medium-sized businesses to run and develop a good campaign, even if they cannot invest huge amounts of money. Value-added BTL activities can be modified or cancelled during execution, as most of them are online-based.
Advantages of Below the line marketing
- Clear targeting: better conversions and therefore better results.
- Better ROI: below the line promotional efforts are focused on a specific target group, have a better approach, can be easily executed, tracked and controlled. Therefore, BTL strategies offer better ROI and MROI in terms of conversion.
- Easy control: results can be easily tracked and action taken to improve profitability.
- Customisation: sub-line advertising strategies are designed according to the needs of a target group and can therefore be shaped differently for different customer groups.
- Specificity: Conversions are better achieved when advertising messages are delivered according to customer desires. Because BTL advertising strategies are highly targeted, its results are better in terms of conversions.
- Better return on investment: BTL advertising strategies have a better reach and can be easily executed, tracked and controlled, as they are tailored and targeted to very specific target groups.
Over time, however, many dilemmas and discussions have arisen regarding these notions, which is why today’s specialists use more specific terms for each type of promotion.
Also, due to these hybrid means of communication, the term and concept of TTL – Through the line advertising, which combines ATL and BTL advertising, has emerged.
Disadvantages of BTL promotion
To implement BTL marketing, a huge amount of data is needed, much more than in the case of ATL. You will have to invest in specialised marketing teams as well as in target audience research solutions. And, of course, you need to follow the process closely and monitor each campaign closely.
To plan and launch BTL marketing tactics, you need to be familiar with the media involved and the platforms used to develop these strategies.
Through the Line (TTL)
Through the line advertising (often referred to as TTL Marketing / TTL Advertising) is the use and combination of both marketing channels – ATL and BTL.
To achieve better results from promotional campaigns, brands need to integrate ATL and BTL strategies as much as possible to attract consumers.
TTL Marketing campaigns represent a 360 degree approach for marketers, where they have to develop complex campaigns with a dual objective: building brand awareness and improving conversions.
Currently, most marketing campaigns follow a TTL approach, especially as it is possible to use digital marketing strategies that offer the benefits of ATL but behave like BTL at the same time.
TTL Marketing is a strategic way of thinking, which is used by full-service marketing agencies to cover all the real needs of their customers.
Thus, by creating a 360° marketing mix, an agency creates integrated digital and offline marketing strategies that propel their clients towards the intersection of customer attention and culture.
TTL marketing is the name given to advertising that cannot be classified as an ATL/BTL marketing strategy. These types of campaigns are integrated, and their objective is to improve brand awareness, as well as develop and increase conversion in a given segment.
Don’t be discouraged by the lack of a clear definition, as TTL is known to be an excellent way to bring value to a business.
TTL strategies can be an excellent tool to measure the impact a brand has in achieving its broader online marketing goals. It can involve integrated marketing campaigns, social media marketing and mass email marketing.
Through the Line advertising involves a combination of tactics and promotional media used in both ATL and BTL advertising to achieve better results.
In short, it is a marketing strategy used for campaigns that aim to achieve brand building as well as conversions.
An example of TTL advertising are digital marketing strategies that offer the benefits of ATL advertising while acting as a BTL communication to customers, basically being a combination of ATL, BTL, TTL marketing.
Above the line vs below the line marketing
ATL Marketing refers to massive, untargeted campaigns to increase brand awareness and reach as many people as possible, while BTL Marketing refers to the much smaller and highly targeted world of advertising, aimed at individuals, with easily trackable ROI and a well-defined audience.
Through the Line Marketing, as you can imagine, is one of 3 communication channels that uses both approaches to achieve both broad brand awareness and focused, targeted profits.
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