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Above the line [ATL] marketing vs. Below the line [BTL] marketing

What is the difference between Above the line (ATL) and Below the line (BTL) marketing?

Simply stated, ATL is any advertising that uses mass media to market a company or brand. Mass media might include television, radio, billboards, film or print. Below the Line marketing is any strategy for promoting products in media that doesn’t include mass media.

Let’s take a look at each of these advertising methods in more detail.

What is Above the Line Marketing?

Above the line marketing is also called:

  • Above the line advertising
  • Above the line promotion
  • ATL advertising
  • ATL marketing

This kind of marketing consists of activities that have a wide reach and are mostly non-targeted methods of advertising. Rather than tracking specific conversions, the purpose of ATL marketing is to build brand awareness and help customers learn about the product.

To put it even more simply, above the line advertising includes un-targeted mass marketing methods that are focused on building out a brand.

In this case, calling it un-targeted means that the marketing messages are not directed toward any one specific group of people. Instead, the sales message is aimed at anybody with access to the advertising mediums.

Types of Above the Line Marketing

Radio – Experts estimate that people need to be exposed to marketing communication between six and 20 times for the message to hit home.

Radio is an incredibly effective and affordable option for helping marketers reach the frequency needs of their ads.

Television – It’s estimated that American adults watch five hours and four minutes of TV every single day.

World-wide figures reveal similar numbers. Television provides the ability to run ads on a local, national and international basis. Marketing on TV is effective in creating a connection with users because it allows advertisers to mix audio with visual images.

Print Advertisements (newspapers and magazines) – Print media has a wider reach than any of the other mediums on a local, regional and national level. Magazines make it simple for advertisers to reach specific niche audiences. Newspapers contain fixed advertising slots that help marketers inform potential customers about their offers and brand.

Benefits of Above the Line Marketing

Brand Building – Marketing through media is an important tool for creating a brand’s identity. Customers truly build a brand. The role of an advertiser is to reach as many prospects and customers as possible and communicate what the brand is all about.

Wide Reach – A wider reach, from local to national to international, is possible through above the line marketing.

Improved Connection with Customers – The audio and visual aspects of radio and television, for example, allow for a connection between marketer and audience.

How to Measure Above the Line Marketing

Measuring above the line advertising is difficult without a clear plan for looking at the first level of calculations. You need to track activity for what happens:

  • Prior to the marketing activity
  • During the marketing activity
  • After the marketing push ends

Remember that some ads are meant for brand recall and other ads are used for sales promotion. For this reason, it’s not easy to decide on whether an advertisement was successful based only on sales numbers.

Here are examples for measuring ATL success:

  • Television ads: How many times did the ad campaign help with brand recall?
  • Print ads: How many walk-ins were generated as a result of the campaign?

Other types of above the line marketing measurements include:

  • Reach: The total number of people that viewed your advertisements
  • Frequency: How many times members of your target market audience saw your advertisements
  • Impressions: The number of times your ads were displayed across all mediums

Stats About Above the Line Marketing

  • Audiences are fully engaged when watching television. One survey revealed that TV commands 15 times the active viewing on Facebook and two times the active viewing on YouTube.
  • Television ads perform at a 95 percent completion rate. This is a higher completion rate than mobile (72 percent) and desktop (75 percent).
  • Each week, radio is consumed by more than 92 percent of Americans age 12 and up. This equates to a total audience of 235 million people. There is a misconception that people aged 12 to 17 don’t listen to radio. The fact is that almost 90 percent listen to radio every week.
  • 82 percent of online users have a lot of trust in print ads and say this type of ad plays a major role when they make buying decisions.
  • People in the United States watch almost eight billion hours every single month on CTV devices, such as Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
  • According to statistics, 25 percent of listeners become more interested about interacting with a brand after hearing about it on the radio. The implication here is that listeners become inclined to purchase based on the fact that radio ads come with a perceived legitimacy.
  • Radio provides a wealth of opportunities to advertise. Over 6,000 radio stations exist across the United States and provide the chance to market in local, regional and national markets.
  • One study revealed that the same message played on radio was 220 percent more effective in terms of listeners remembering it, as opposed to when it was aired on TV.

What is Below the Line [BTL] Marketing?

Below the line marketing is also commonly referred as:

  • Below the line advertising
  • Below the line promotion
  • BTL marketing
  • BTL advertising

BTL advertising consists of memorable, specific and direct marketing efforts that focus on a targeted group of customers. These methods are often referred to as direct marketing strategies. Unlike ATL marketing, which focuses on building the brand, BTL marketing focuses on specific conversions.

To put it even more simply, below the line advertising includes marketing methods focused on conversions and are directed at a specific target market.

Types of Below the Line Marketing

Direct Marketing – This is one of the most personal methods used by marketers. It involves direct messages (text messages, email marketing, etc) that are direct product offers created according to the needs of each recipient. The more targeted nature allows for the possibility of improved conversion rates.

Outdoor Advertising – This type of below the line marketing includes banners, flags, billboards, wraps, etc that are on constant display. They are normally located in public places and provide greater and more targeted reach.

In-Store Marketing – These are marketing activities performed inside any retail store and revolve around various point-of-sale efforts including point of sale marketing, and point of purchase marketing.

Brand Activation – This is the art of influencing customer actions via brand experiences and interaction. The main aspect to these types of campaigns is to drive consumers into action. The intent is to form long-term emotional connections and increase brand awareness through experiences.

Sponsorships – Often brand building strategies at the below the line marketing level, sponsorships are partnerships with various events or companies designed to generate increases in impressions.

Benefits of Below the Line Marketing

Improved ROI – Below the line marketing methods are focused in on the target market, have high quality reach and are easy to implement and control. Overall, BTL strategies have the ability to drive improved conversion rates.

Targeted – Conversion will always be better when marketing messaging and communication is performed according to what the consumer wants. Again, because below the line advertising methods are very targeted, increased conversions are the result.

Tailor-Made – BTL marketing strategies are created differently for each of various customer groups and this means the messaging is more tailor-made for the needs of each group.

Easy Tracking Control – Returns from the use of BTL activities are easily monitored and tracked so that adjustments can be made on the fly in order to improve ROI.

How to Measure Below the Line Marketing

Since below the line advertising campaigns are more targeted in nature than above the line marketing campaigns, it’s possible to measure the following kinds of events:

  • Click through rates, or CTR, resulting from digital ads
  • Conversion rates that come from marketing on blogs, websites, via discount offers and through direct mail campaigns
  • Open rates inside email marketing and marketing automation campaigns
  • Blog, website and landing page visits
  • Subscribers, followers and fans on blogs, via email lists and through the use of social media

Stats About Below the Line Marketing

  • The number of global email users is set to increase to 4.3 billion users by 2022. This represents half the world’s population.
  • The number of emails sent and received every day is expected to increase to over 333 billion daily emails by 2022. Email marketing is expected to continue to prove a valuable and profitable BTL advertising strategy.
  • You can expect to see an average return of $32 for every one dollar spent on email marketing.
  • For small business owners, email is a method that continues to prove to be a big driver of customer acquisition and retention. According to one report, 80 percent of small business owners rely on email for retention and 81 percent of small businesses use it as their main customer acquisition method.
  • Regarding outdoor advertising, billboards account for 65 percent of revenue and represent 17 percent of all possible kinds of outdoor advertising.
  • One study revealed that 72 percent of billboard viewers sometimes or frequently take time to shop as they make their way home from their jobs.
  • 54 percent of retail establishments report that customer experience is the most vital area of focus.
  • Welcome emails should be a large focus when it comes to maximizing email marketing efforts. The average open rate for welcome emails is a whopping 82 percent.

Your company should make use of both above the line marketing and below the line marketing techniques. Don’t become overwhelmed by the wealth of advertising methods available to your business.

Instead, think about how you want to represent your brand and use below the line marketing efforts to create more awareness for your products and brand. Then, drill down to specific groups of people within your overall industry so that you can market to their specific needs with targeted ad and marketing campaigns. Use below the line marketing strategies in that case.

It’s important that you create a well-rounded approach to your marketing plan. Too many businesses focus their efforts on only one or two methods and wonder why business growth is stalled. Adding more marketing channels over time furthers your company’s reach, builds your brand and results in improved ROI.