Traditionally, advertising campaigns were segmented into two categories: ATL and BTL advertising. These terms define the media used in campaigns and the audience that is being targeted. Due to the technological progress and changing markets, this traditional approach has lost a bit its original meaning. Nevertheless it entered the trade language for good and that's why it's worth knowing what do they mean.
Let’s take a look at each of these approaches:
Above the Line (ATL) advertising
ATL strategies are used when the focus is on mass media promotion. The main goal of campaign is to reach a large audience and to boost brand awareness. All promotional messages are untargeted, they do not focus on any specific target group. ATL includes mass media: radio, TV, print and branding solutions.
Below the Line (BTL) advertising
In contrast to ATL, below-the-line advertising is directed to reach specific, smaller groups of customers. The promotional messages are highly targeted and the main goal of the campaign is to gain conversion and direct response. BTL campaigns takes different forms: in-store specials, in-home product demonstrations, events sponsorship, leaflets’ distribution. But the most important is point of sale (POS) advertising. Discover how many forms it can take!
Where does this division come from?
The terms ATL and BTL were first used in 1954 in Proctor&Gamble and that division was related to the method of accounting settlements used for different advertising agencies. At that time advertising agencies based their remuneration on commissions for media reservations. For other advertising actions, not in media, agencies were not paid. That’s why, what brought profits, accountants qualified as above the line (ATL), and activities that did not bring profit agencies were described as those below the line (BTL).
Changing markets and consumer requirements, made it necessary to develop new channels of communication. That is why, nowadays it is difficult to classify marketing actions only to one of these strategies.
Reading time: ~2,5 minutes