"Above the line" blackboard (© Ionut / Fotolia.com)
"Above the line" blackboard (© Ionut / Fotolia.com)

Above the line is an advertising term that is tossed around a lot in the advertising world. While those who are experienced in advertising might be quite familiar with the term, those who are new to it might be quite confused by it. What is above the line and what is its purpose? Below, you’ll find valuable information about this important advertising term.

What exactly does above the line mean? It’s an important advertising term, as is its counterpart, below the line. If you are new to marketing, however, these terms might have you scratching your head.

To gain a better understanding of what above the line and below the line mean, let’s start by explaining what the metaphoric “line” is. Essentially, it’s a line that is used to differentiate marketing activities. Those that have mass penetration are considered above the line, and those that have specific penetration are considered below the line. Thanks to ever-growing competition, there’s no another term that comes into play with above and below the line: through the line. Any marketing activities that blur the lines between above and below the line activities are considered to be through the line advertising activities.

Advertising activities can be separated according to the motives behind marketing, the groups that are targeted, and the budget that has been allotted.
 

What is Above the Line Advertising?

Still not making much sense? Let’s further elaborate to help you gain a better understanding. Above the line advertising, which is also referred to as above the lime promotion, above the line marketing, or ATL advertising, consists of any advertising activities that are primarily non-targeted and have a very wide reach. The purpose of above the line advertising is to build a brand and let customers know about a product. Though they are important, the conversions that are associated with above the line advertising aren’t as important as those that are associated with below the line efforts.

To explain it in even simpler terms: Above the line marketing incorporates mass marketing strategies that are primarily untargeted and are meant to build a brand. ‘Untargeted’ means that the communication used in this type of advertising isn’t geared toward a particular group. In other words, messages that are associated with above the line advertising are directed to anyone that has access to them.
 

Examples of Above the Line Advertising

Though you may just be hearing the term “above the line” for the first time, believe it or not, you have been subjected to it for a very long time.

Here’s a look at some common examples of above the line marketing that you have more than likely experienced at least once, if not countless times.

  • Television. The average person spends more than four hours a day watching television. As such, advertisements that are placed on TV have the ability to reach local, national and international audiences. This reach is dependent on the TV channel and the contract that exists between the parties. Advertisements that are run on television have a better chance of connection with viewers, as moving images with audio are highly interactive, eye-catching and engaging. Moreover, since such a large audience watches TV, the advertisements that are placed on television are often intended to out to a large, non-specific crowd.
     
  • Radio. According to psychologies, people have to hear an advertisement a minimum of three times before the advertisements starts to penetrate. While TV may offer visual appeal, radio offers the best auditory appeal. Advertisements can be played multiple times, and the cost to run them is usually minimal, making above the line advertising via the radio a highly affordable option. Moreover, radio offers the perfect solution for marketers that are looking to fulfill all of the creative and frequency demands that an advertisement requires. Ads can easily be played on a constant basis. Plus, these ads can reach local, national and international audiences.
     
  • Print advertisements. Above the line advertisements can also be made in print form, such as ads posted in newspapers and magazines. In fact, of all of the forms of advertising, local, regional and print media has the largest reach. For example, newspapers offer fixed ad slots, which marketers can use to let customers know about products and services, and to let prospective customers know about the benefits that a brand has to offer. Moreover, magazines have niche markets, which makes it easier for marketers to directly reach their niche.
     

Benefits of Above the Line Advertising

Though the conversions that are associated with above the line advertising may not be weighted as heavily as those that are associated with below the line advertising, this form of marketing still offers many benefits.

Some of the most notable benefits of above the line advertising include:

  • A wider reach. Without a doubt, one of the biggest advantages of above the line advertising is its reach. Traditionally, these methods used with this type of advertising have very wide national and international reach.
     
  • A better connection with the audience. Another definite benefit of above the line advertising is the powerful connection it can make with audiences. Advertising mediums like radio and TV rely on audio and visual elements, which helps to create a better, more lasting connection with the audience that views these types of advertisements.
     
  • Builds the brand. It’s no secret that media advertising is a vital tool for brands to use when they are trying to realize and define their brand’s identity. Brands are built by customers. The job of a marketer is to reach out to as many potential customers as possible and communicate to them the brand and the benefits that it offers. As such, above the line plays a vital role in regard to building a brand.
     

What Is Below the Line Advertising?

Below the line advertising, also known as below the line promotion or below the line marketing, is comprised of highly specific, very memorable and direct advertising efforts that are focused on specific groups of consumers. This type of advertising is more focused on building conversions than building the brand.

To further simplify, below the line marketing incorporates direct marketing strategies that are directed toward a specific and targeted group of individuals. It is focused on the conversions of the brand, rather than building the brand.
 

Samples of Below the Line Advertising

Below the line marketing involves several strategies. Some of the most commonly used strategies include the following:

  • Advertising outdoors. Typically executed in public spaces, outdoor advertisements are always on display and are intended to have a more targeted reach, which is dependent on the locations where it is being used. Outdoor advertising modalities can include banners, flags, wraps, billboards, news tickers and the like.
     
  • Direct Mail Marketing. A highly personal marketing strategy, direct mail advertising includes emails, text messages and snail mail that is directly mailed to a targeted audience. The messages that this type of marketing contains is custom-made and highlights the brand and different offers that are available. These messages are created according to the needs of each customer.
     
  • Sponsorships. This type of advertising refers to a partnership with different corporations or events in order to gain more impressions. Sponsorships are usually executed as a part of brand building strategy at the below the line level.
     
  • Brand activation. This refers to the process of driving consumer action via experiences and interactions with a brand. The primary goal of these types of campaigns is to encourage consumers to act and bring brands to life through the experiences that consumers have with them. They also intend to form long-term connections with consumers.
     
  • In Store Marketing. Another tactic used by below the line advertising is in store marketing. This refers to any marketing activities that are executed within a retail store. The utilize several point of sales in order to get the maximum return on investment.
     

Benefits of Below the Line Advertising

Below the line marketing offers specific benefits, the most notable of which include:

  • It’s highly targeted. The conversions that are associated with below the line advertising are considered much better because they speak directly to a specific audience.
     
  • Better Return on Investment. Below the line marketing also offers a better return on investment. That’s because they have a much better reach and are much easier to execute, track and control. This means that these strategies offer a better return on investment in terms of conversions.
     
  • They’re easy to control. It’s much easier to track the return from these types of activities.
     
  • They’re custom made. Lastly, the strategies that are used with below the line advertising are made according to the specific needs of a targeted group of people, which means that they can be molded and custom tailored to meet the needs of each specific group.

The bottom line is this: If you want to build your brand, you need to make use of above the line advertising techniques, and if you want to increase conversions, you have to use below the line strategies. Both types of advertising are crucial to a business.



         



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