Above-the-line advertising

Above-the-line advertising also known as Above the Line promotion / Above the Line marketing / ATL marketing / ATL advertising) consist of advertising activities that are largely non-targeted and have a wide reach. ATL isusing to done to build the brand and inform about the product. Conversions are given less importance in above the line advertising. “This type of communication is conventional and impersonal to customers, and much more effective when the target group is very large and difficult to define. One of the major drawbacks in the ATL campaigns is the inability to evaluate the commission based on the campaign. It is impossible to calculate how much the sale increased due to campaign.”

Example of ATL:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Newspapers
  • Internet

According to D. Statt “above-the-line advertising is a form of sales promotion where an agency is commissioned to place advertising for a client in the mass media. It isusually contrasted with below-the-line advertising which has overtaken it inpopularity in recent years.”

Above-the-line promotion is the use of promotional methods that cannot be directly controlled by the company selling the goods or service, such as television or press advertising.


“First used in 1954 when Procter & Gamble began paying advertising firms separately from other suppliers who dealt with more direct promotional efforts. The term originated spontaneously while composing a budget of Procter & Gamble. Only traditional advertisement costs were listed in the draft budget (television, radio, printed media, outdoor and movie theatre ads). Employees in company then considered free sampling, discount programs, sweepstakes, sponsorships, etc. which made them draw a line below initial costs, in order to include these previously uncharted costs of promotion (In the Beginning, There Was ATL, n.d.). Advertising agencies made commission from booking different types of media – TV, cinema, radio, press, magazines and out-of-home. Since BTL activities had no involvement of media, no commission was made for these agencies. The accountants marked different types of media as ATL an BTL depending on where it would sit in the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts (ATL stands for profit oriented activities, and BTL stands for non profit activities). During the time, this advertising budget structure became popular and became practiced around the world. Now, “above the line” stands for capital expenditures and “below the line” for current expenditures.”

Marketing activities

Generally in the opinion of N. Arora “marketing activities (basically advertisements) today can be divided into three segments – Above the Line (ATL), Below the Line (BTL), & Through the Line (TTL) Marketing. The line was originally used to separate marketing activities which had mass penetration (above the line) to those which had specific penetration (below the line).”

Above the line advertising benefits

Above the line advertising has many benefits as it is designed to reach a larger audience and boost brand awareness. However this form of marketing does carry a costly price tag and is generally reserved for the larger corporate organisations.

Here are a few main benefits of above the line advertising:

  • Brand awareness – ATL is best for boosting brand awareness on a very large scale and has an impressive impact on brand recognition by consumers. It’s virtually impossible to build a very well-known brand without this form of advertising campaign.
  • Attention grabbing – With a combination of audio and visual which is used in above the line advertising the attention-grabbing quality is boosted to levels not reached with other forms of advertising. This is because audio and visual demand attention from the consumer.
  • Reach – No other form of advertising is as effective in reaching a large audience than ATL advertising. Brands that use above the line advertising are almost always guaranteed great returns on investment.

Examples of Above-the-Line Advertising

Above-the-line advertising has been defined in different ways, but the most common depiction is that it encompasses traditional broadcast and print mass media, including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. While these traditional media still remain viable options for companies that need to reach primary target markets, below-the-line methods such as direct mail and social media have gained in prominence.

TV commercials aired on network or cable television are a common way to reach a lot of people with a creative message. While TV ads represent a major part of ad budgets for many companies, others have grown concerned with the high cost compared with tangible returns. Viewers who skip commercials by using digital video recorders or who are distracted by their mobile devices reduce the impact of television ad expenditures.


Radio advertising includes 15- to 60-second spot commercials typically purchased in packages and rotated over the course one or more months. Radio is an above-the-line approach that has been especially useful to local businesses, which account for about 80 percent of radio ad expenditures. Radio is more affordable than television and offers opportunities for frequency and repetition. However, inattentive listeners and the lack of visual stimulus can reduce effectiveness.


Newspapers are another affordable opportunity for small businesses. Many communities have newspapers that give local businesses a way to efficiently connect with people in the area. Regional and national publications, such as The New York Times, provide options for regional or national companies. Credibility is another benefit of mainstream newspapers because people associate the ads within news content as more believable than those in fictitious content, according to the Cengage textbook “Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion.” Limited creative abilities, poor reproduction and a short shelf life are drawbacks of newspaper ads.


Magazines are a highly selective medium because there are so many available. While large mags like “US Weekly,” “People” and “Time” reach millions of people, a number of other small magazines, like those in fitness, health and technology categories, appeal to smaller, more focused market segments. If you advertise products that interest niche magazine readers, your ads can have much more influence than they might in more general audience TV shows or newspapers, according to the Cengage textbook.

Below the Line

Below-the-line advertising refers to newer forms of interactive advertising that have become more common in the early 21st century. Direct marketing, email marketing loyalty programs, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and promotions targeted to specific customers are examples. These media allow for more measurable responses from customers and make it easier for companies to track the results of their advertising investment.