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  • Tausif Mulla

ATL and BTL activation for dummies

ATL ad in Dubai

If you are a marketing professional or a student and you are not well versed with current marketing lingo you might miss on opportunities coming in your direction. Two such terms are Above the line (ATL) & Below the line (BTL). Are you aware of these? Since, I am also a faculty of marketing at Westford University College, I am often asked by my students about ATL and BTL adverting.

So here is the simplified explanation of the terms Above the line & Below the line. Both ATL & BTL are aspects of advertising. The role of advertising in marketing is to reach customers and for this advertiser opts for either ATL communication or BTL communication.

Let’s first understand the definition and how was this term coined. ATL can be defined as a communication technique used by advertisers to reach highly untargeted masses. For example, an ad on television aired throughout the nation. On the flip side, BTL can be defined as a communication technique used by advertisers to reach a highly targeted audience. For example, an event planned in college/university categorically targeting the students. In a nutshell, ATL is used for brand awareness and BTL is used for direct response (either direct sale or direct promotion).

What is ATL and BTL in advertising?

Now let’s demystify the “Line” in both the communication technique. Back in 1954, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) started paying its agencies different rates as per the promotion activities planned. The line of communication that was chosen for promotion gave origin to ATL & BTL activities.

Common examples of ATL advertising are television, radio, print, outdoor, and the internet. Under BTL advertising, you have flyers, handbills, brochures at POS, events, banners, and last but not least internet. You may be confused about how come the internet is part of both communication techniques? The Internet is the only tool that has a reach to the masses as well as selected groups. With this there is a new term that has come to existence in advertising, it is called Through The Line (TTL) advertising. ( I will be explaining TTL in-depth in my next post)

Through the Line advertising

Which one should you choose?

It depends on your targeting. If you want to reach to masses then you need to go for ATL advertising. You need to have an agency of record (AoR) to plan your ATL campaigns. For example, the Lookup campaign

#LookUp campaign by

If you want to communicate to specific (targeted) groups then you should opt for BTL advertising. For example, An activation in a cinema hall.

Comparison of ATL & BTL

Watch out for my next post on Through The Line advertising and how you can benefit from it. Don't forget to subscribe to my blog.


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