January 16, 2017

Above the line marketing

Above the line marketing

One of the most common terminologies used in marketing, especially when talking of promotions mix, is Above the line marketing or below the line marketing. This article deals specifically with Above the line marketing.

Any brand which wants to have mass appeal, has to use the Above the line marketing techniques. This is because this technique is meant for products which have a mass appeal and where targeting becomes difficult.

Let’s take an example of washing powder, or any such FMCG example because till date FMCG generally has very high expenditure for above the line marketing. These FMCG products are used in each and every household. Naturally, the higher the marketing spend, the more will be the brand recall, and the more will be the sale. Hence, you see a lot of FMCG companies using Above the line marketing techniques.

The typical media vehicles for this technique are

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspapers / print
  • Cinema / Theatres (product placements)
  • Out of home media

However, if you want to categorize these media as per the total ad spends or the above the line spends  then they stand as follows. Source

Television >> Newspapers >> Radio / Out of home >> Cinema

Media wise spend Above the line marketing

Similarly, if you compare the ad spends to the sector which is spending the most you will find the following figures. (Source same as above)

FMCG >> Auto >> E-commerce >> Retail. Media spend sector wise Above the line marketing

Now that you have gone through the data, you can see that above the line marketing has a lot of value for products which are purchased by Everyone. As discussed before, FMCG and personal care products have the largest exposure to above the line techniques. These companies need above the line advertising because they want  to have a high brand recall as most of the products are impulse purchase products.

Advantages of Above the line marketing

1) Reach – Implementing a strong ATL advertising plan can help the brand reach far and wide. Most of the banks as well as retail showrooms regularly advertise their reach via ATL media to entice customers to visit their showrooms.

2) Attention – With a combination of Audio and visual, the penetration levels of ATL media is higher than any other type of advertising. Television and radio literally demand attention through their creatives. Whereas newspapers have high involvement so that the customer does read through the ads also. Finally, out of home too, when placed properly has a huge impact on decision making and creating excitement.

3) Brand building – Any brand which wants a name for itself has to invest in brand building via ATL channels. Most of these brands start with Out of home advertising, then progress to Radio and print. And finally some of them might progress to TVC or will continue with the other media. Nonetheless, a brand cannot be built just by below the line marketing.

The challenges of above the line marketing.

There are many challenges to above the line marketing techniques.

1) It is costly – Any media is costly, but television and newspapers are known to be the costliest around the world.

2) It is being replaced – Blogs and online magazines have replaced the power of newspapers and magazines therefore weakening the stronghold of above the line marketing tactics

3) It is beyond small and medium businesses – Obviously small and medium businesses do not matter much, but the bulk of business for BTL activities is nowadays coming from small and medium enterprises also.

4) Effectiveness and ROI – Till date, measuring the effectiveness and ROI of a TVC is very difficult. Same goes with newspapers. What is the guarantee that the ad will provoke users to purchase the product? And how many people purchased after watching the ad? Even though it is difficult to measure, investment in Above the line marketing is very necessary to maintain good brand recall.

As you can see, there are many advantages as well as challenges to above the line marketing. However, the advantages outweight the challenges provided you have deep pockets to invest. If you dont have deep pockets, then the brand should at least use Out of home and BTL tactics to get good brand recognition. Brands like Amul have shown that you can go a long way just by using out of home media.

Many marketers swear by the effectiveness of ATL marketing whereas others feel that BTL is now slowly overshadowing ATL. Digital marketing has already contributed equally to Ad spends of Radio, magazines and Cinema combined.  Although TV and newspapers are very difficult to overthrow, Digital is fast catching up at least with the newspapers segment.

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About Hitesh Bhasin

I love writing about marketing and advertising. Would you like to ask me a question? Kindly send your queries and feedback via this Forum. You can also get daily marketing updates via email. Let's stay in touch :)


  1. the material help me to distinguish between above the line and below the line concepts thank you so much!

  2. Brandon Park says:

    Are busses, internet and billboards ATL or BTL in your opinon?

  3. Good article brilliant explanation about tv,radio and paper.

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