Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Marketing Funda : Above The Line & Below The Line

Above the Line ( ATL) and Below The Line ( BTL) are the two most commonly used terms in marketing. Both these refer to the nature of promotional activities done by companies.

The simple and most common definition for Above the Line promotions is that ATL refers to all promotional activities done by companies through mass media. In common parlance Advertising is the major ATL activity and all other form of promotions except direct marketing falls below the line.

There is another jargon Through The Line (TTL) which refers to the activities that try to integrate both ATL and BTL.

Both ATL and BTL jargons does not form a part of the core marketing concepts hence you will not find a clear academic definition in marketing text books ( esp. Kotler).

Above The Line and Below The Line terms are centered around the word " LINE". So it is essential to understand the meaning of the term LINE inorder to see the difference between the two jargons.

Interestingly the term LINE is hypothetical and there is no defined boundary that exists between ATL and BTL

According to Mr Michael John Baker ( The Marketing Book) , the term came into forefront in 1954 through the practice of Proctor and Gamble, where the advertising agencies were paid differently from those who undertook promotional activities other than advertising. Marketers began to delineate activities other than advertising as a separate marketing practice called Below the Line Promotion.

Below The Line promotions include sales promotions, consumer promotions, PR, events , point of purchase promotions and all those unconventional tools that marketers adopt. Direct Marketing how ever could not be fitted into both these jargons and hence is kept stand alone.

Frankly there is no need for such a hypothetical boundary and classifications like ATL and BTL. The current developments that are happening in the media space makes such jargons highly irrelevant. Because boundaries are blurring. Now we see consumer promotions heavily advertised in mass media. Events are highly publicized using advertising, so the LINE is actually non-existant.

For example a viral video in Youtube which is watched by millions of netizens can be theoretically put as a BTL but it is reaching even more people than the traditional media like TV and print. The recent ZooZoo campaign of Vodafone cannot be bracketted along ATL and BTL because the campaign has already become viral with many blogs writing about it. The campaign was designed to be viral.