We often come across a mysterious "line" mentioned in advertising. You may hear the terms "above the line", "below the line" and even "through the line" (otherwise known as ATL, BTL, and TTL), but exactly what is this "line", and why should anything be above or below it?
In "The Marketing Book", Michael J Baker writes: "This purely hypothetical boundary, first delineated in 1954 by Procter & Gamble, is based on the fact that advertising agencies are paid for their work in a completely different way from the intermediaries who provide every other form of promotional service."
This harkens back to the glamorous golden days of advertising where there was a clearly-defined remit for advertising agencies - to create widespread advertising campaigns for the mass market. If we use the Procter & Gamble example, "above the line" would refer to traditional brand-building mass media advertising channels, such as TV, radio and newspaper/magazine ads. "Below the line" would refer to highly targeted media such as the direct mail and experiential activities. Taking these 1950s terms one step further, "through the line" has been used to describe both above and below the line channels when combined in integrated advertising or marketing campaigns.
These days, and especially with the introduction of digital and social channels (which can address both mass audiences and 1-to-1 at the same time), the "line" has become so grey that it is virtually non-existent.
However, the terms are still used, so let's look at some of the common ATL and BTL channels.
- TV advertisement.
- Newspaper/magazine advertisement.
- Radio advertisement.
- Roadside advertisement, poster or bill sticker.
- Cinema advertisement.
- Major sports team, venue or event sponsorship.
- Social media (general profiles or pages, not advertising).
- Intelligence-based telemarketing.
- Targeted leaflet drop.
- Tradeshow or exhibition.
- Local sports team, venue or event sponsorship.
- Experiential activities, in-person demonstrations or sampling.
- Direct mail marketing.
- Marketing automation/lead generation.
- PPC (pay-per-click) advertising.
- Social media marketing.
- SEM (search engine marketing) / paid search.
- Content marketing.
- Coupons/deals/incentives to past customers.
- POS (point of sale) promotion.
- PR (public relations).
Measuring ATL, BTL and TTL campaigns
Depending on the type of campaign you launch, there will be different ways of measuring its success.
Measuring ATL campaigns
- Frequency (number of times members of the target audience see the advertisement).
- Reach (total number of people that see the advertisement).
- Number of impressions (how many times the advertisement has been displayed across various mediums).
Measuring BTL campaigns
- Conversion rates from websites/blogs/direct mail campaigns/discount offers, etc.
- CTR (click through rates) from digital advertisements.
- CPC (cost per click), or CPA (cost per acquisition).
- Open rates from eDMs and marketing automation campaigns
- Website/blog/landing page visits.
- Social media likes, followers and impressions.
- Subscribers on blogs or email lists.
Measuring TTL campaigns
TTL is a mixture of both ATL and BTL channels. Therefore, the measurement of such campaigns would be a mixture of the measurement options above.
Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.
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