Marketing and promotional activities are amongst the most critical activities towards product selling. Originally the marketing lines were used to differentiate between promotional activities which have mass market penetration (above the line or ATL) as compared to those had specific segmental penetration (below the line or BTL).

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Over a period of time with advancement in technologies and increased competition, an integrated market penetration approach emerged which blurred the lines and included aspects of both ATL and BTL approaches.

This approach is called Through the Line or the TTL approach. This article looks at understanding these various approaches through real life examples, looks at various activities and ideas involved in the approaches.

Table of content

  1. Above the Line (ATL) advertising
  2. Types of above the line activities
    • Television
    • Radio
    • Print advertisements
    • Outdoor Advertising/ Cinema Advertising
  3. An example of ATL marketing activity
  4. Advantages of ATL marketing
  5. Disadvantages of ATL marketing
  6. Below the Line (BTL) advertising
  7. Types of above the line activities
    • Television
    • Radio
    • Print advertisements
    • Outdoor Advertising/ Cinema Advertising
  8. An example of ATL marketing activity
  9. Advantages of ATL marketing
  10. Disadvantages of ATL marketing
  11. Through the Line (TTL) advertising
    • Examples of TTL marketing
  12. Conclusion

Above the Line (ATL) advertising

‘ATL Marketing’ or ‘Above the Line Marketing’ is the kind of marketing that has a very broad reach and is largely not specifically directed.

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It is a sort of a mass market traditional marketing approach to create or spread brand awareness on a large scale or a mass scale.

ATL is extensively used for products which are of mass use and specific targeting is not needed or not required.

The primary purpose of the ATL approach is not to track specific customer conversations but to educate the customers on the existence of a product and look at building a brand.

Given its nature ATL uses untargeted mass market methods with an intent of directing the sales message at anybody with access to advertising mediums.

Consider an example of a soap bar. Being an FMCG product it is an apt candidate for ATL marketing. Mass market products like soap require maximum market coverage instead of specific segment coverage.

Since a lot of alternatives are available for FMCG products, the higher the amount of ATL advertising, more will be the branch recall and consequently the sale.

Hence FMCG companies are likely to employ ATL promotion method.

Types of Above the Line Activities

o   Television

Television is a widely used but an expensive ATL medium. An average viewer spends a few hours in front of the television everyday. TV advertisements have a wide reach from local, to national to an international target audience.

Television advertisements have lasting impact with the audiences as moving images are accompanied with audio signals which create a lasting impression in the mind of the viewer.

o   Radio

Radio is an affordable alternative to television and is extensively used for repeat messaging. Constant repeat messaging in the form of jingles attracts viewer attention. Radios too have a reach ranging from local to international.

o   Print Advertisements (magazine & newspaper)

Local, regional and national print media has a wide direct reach.

The newspapers and magazine are tangible items and the advertisements here have a repeat value in the sense that the same advertisement can be referred again and again.

Newspapers have several advertisement-slots that can be used to inform customers / prospective customers about the brand offering or prevalent promotion schemes.

Magazines exist in segments and make it easier for marketers to reach their target directly through them.

o   Outdoor Advertising/ Cinema Advertising

Outdoor advertising is done through banners, billboards, flags, tickers etc. To ensure effectiveness they are usually done at public places and hence they attract a lot of eyeballs.

An alternative method of advertisement is via cinemas where ads are normally run before the beginning of the move or during the intermission.

If we arrange the ATL medium spends in relation to the cost, get the below

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

Example of ATL Marketing Activity

An apt example would be the campaign run by Nirma for its washing power.

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It has created some great commercials that are shown via television channels, radio, newspapers and magazines.

The ads are aired across the country through these medium and every viewer sees the exact same message.

These ads are be used to create brand awareness and convey information regarding the washing powder.

Advantages of ATL Marketing

Wider Reach

A well designed ATL campaign ensured greater market reach and helps the company spread its brand product message far and wide.

Several banks and retail chains regularly use ATL campaigns to attract customers to their points of sale.


Combining audio with visual enables the penetration levels of ATL to be higher than the other means of promotion.

Newspapers have high involvement so that the customer does read through the ads also. Similarly large illuminated billboards and tickers attract attention.

Brand building

It effectively enable a company to build its brand

Disadvantages of ATL Marketing

  • It is costly.
  • It is difficult to directly measure the impact in terms of sales. Directly measuring the effectiveness of ROI of a television of a newspaper campaign is difficult.

Below the Line Advertising

BTL refers to the practices of making use of means of advertisement and promotion that do not directly use mass media like radio, television, billboards, print, and other outdoor formats.

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BTL methods are typically used to target specific audience instead of casting a campaign for the mass markets.

The main types of below-the-line advertising systems include direct mail campaigns, trade shows, catalogs, and targeted search engine marketing.

BTL advertising methods tend to be less expensive and more focused versus above-the-line strategies. BTL methods are comparatively low cost which target a specific audience and is a focussed means of communication.

For instance, a BTL approach would focus on something like an in-store demonstration of product rather than airing a television campaign during a show.

This allows of a specific high-level customer experience since there is direct interaction between the customer and the sales person.

Types of Below the Line Activities

Targeted online marketing

Many companies indulge in direct targeted SMS facilities, social media posts and targeted pamphlets to the target audience.

Advertisers can target specific demographics with their promotion campaign such as age, income, industry related targeting.

LinkedIn for example allows agencies to target specific audience based on their professional experience.

Online marketing can also use tools like Google apps. The internet is one of the fastest growing vehicle for BTL advertisement.

Direct Mailing

Agencies still engage in direct mail advertising, generally targeting the older demographics that are not online as often as their younger counterparts. Catalaog mailings and postcard mailings are popular forms of this form of advertisement.

Trade Shows and Presentations

A good way to target a specified audience it through dedicated trade shows and presentation. This method is widely used by companies in the technical and sector.

Common examples are automobile expo`s, machine fairs etc.

Sponsorship of events and competition

Another effective means of advertisement is sponsorship of an event which makes use of your product/ services.

For example, a sport company sponsoring a tennis event or a badminton event is a prime example

Sales promotions

This is a very common method of attracting a customer. Do you notice how several E- commerce companies keep coming up with “SALE” under some pretext or the other.

This s because they want to sell in high volume. Sales promotion is not used only at the end consumer.

Dealers can be given additional discounts just so they pick up higher volumes and hence focuses on the product to sell it better.

Example of BTL Marketing Activity

Consider the example of low calorie drink by Coca Cola, targeting commuters on way to the gym. Coke offers free samples of their drink along with promotional vouchers that could be redeemed in local stores.

This is an effective strategy designed to target a defined group of people (health conscious) to encourage quick turnaround in terms of purchases.

Advantages of BTL Marketing

  • Great for building customer relationship through targeted promotion
  • Required lower capital commitment compared to traditional ATL methods.
  • Offers a deep direct reach and the opportunity to connect with customers in an entirely new way
  • The effectiveness of the promotion is comparatively easier to track in terms of the ROI sales/ leads generated.
  • It has the potential for viral marketing
  • Better conversation/ response rate compared to traditional ATL methods.
  • This method of promotion is highly relevant to the local traditions and culture as advertisement can be customized to the local preferences

Disadvantages of BTL Marketing

  • Defining correct target segments may be difficult
  • Specific and detailed training may be required for sales staff.
  • This requires a deep understanding of the customers and their preferences.
  • It cannot be a template method to target diverse cultures and same would need personalization.

Through the Line

TTL method of promotion encompasses an integrated approach adopting partial strategies of both ATL and BTL methods.

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The primary objective is to get a “Big Picture” of the market and communicate with the customers with in every possible means.

Combining both ATL and BTL activities, TTL activities aim at better brand recall and maximum brand visibility. It is 360-degree advertising where campaigns are developed with the vision of brand building as well as conversions.

With the rise of digital marketing an Pay Per Click models and social media, advertisers are looking at TTL approach to drive sales through increasing traffic either at websites or to physical stores.

The major challenge of TTL activities is the cost associated with implementing various promotional campaigns.

It is usually only established or financially secure companies that can implement TTL activities successfully.

Examples of TTL Marketing Activity

Let’s take an example of a well-known property developer DAMAC in UAE. It is a fine example of TTL advertising. It uses hoardings, mall activations and online banner ads in addition to print media.

As a part of ATL advertisements it places hoardings for its upcoming projects at key public places like the airport. This is untargeted marketing.

For its BTL campaign, DAMAC uses property booths inside malls. It effectively uses this campaign to generate leads within the target group.

With a TTL approach, DAMAC creates redirecting pages to direct traffic to its sales website.

It uses various campaigns on social media including FaceBook, Instagram, YouTube etc.

With the usage of cookies, it follows your trail through the internet.

Next time you login to your social media account again you are likely to see DAMAC ads. This time it may also include a personalized offer.

Numerous brands like BATA, RedChief Shoes, Monte Carlo, Lodha Developers amongst others follow a TTL approach.

Apart from ATL approaches, these companies provide customized campaigns for different demographics which form a part of the BTL campaign.

Additionally these brands come with various social media campaigns with an integrated 360 degree approach.


There is no “applicable in all situations” market approach. While ATL method may work for some companies like FMCG, others may need to adopt a BTL approach.

With the evaluation of customer preferences and advance of digital marketing a lot of companies are adopting the TTL approach.

Eventually it boils down to how well marketers read the market and what is the best fit for passing on your company`s message to the customer.

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