What is the difference between ATL, BTL and TTL advertising?

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    A commonly asked question in the world of marketing is what is the difference between ‘Above the Line’, ‘Below the Line’, and ‘Through the Line’ Marketing?

    Above the Line, or ATL Marketing, refers to generally untargeted, massive campaigns to raise brand awareness and reach more people; below the Line, or BTL Marketing, refers to the much smaller and highly targeted world of ads, aimed at individuals and with easy to track returns on investment and a definitive audience; and finally, through the Line, as you can imagine, uses both of these approaches to gain both widespread band awareness and focused, targeted returns.

    What is ‘the Line’ and where did it come from?

    These definitions of approaches to marketing were first used in 1954 when Proctor and Gamble began paying different firms separately and at a different rate, for direct promotional activities and wider advertising campaigns, separating the two approaches. In this way, ‘the Line’ in marketing was used by advertising agencies to separate direct, targeted campaigns from those more general and widespread aimed at brand awareness, and those with the presence or absence of direct results, and direct return on investments. There is cause to wonder if ‘the Line’ is now blurring, for instance, the massive use of social media today and the wide exposure given means that advertising here should be ATL, though it can also be highly targeted (BTL) so is all social media TTL? One key is to consider intent. If you are offering a promotion or something that has a direct response element it cannot be ATL, while to be TTL the promotion should show but on a page that is not as targeted.

    We will now explore in more detail these types of marketing strategies that are typically employed.

    Above the Line Marketing (ATL)

    ATL are marketing activities that are most used to build brand awareness and establish goodwill. They are widespread campaigns, largely untargeted and undertaken at a general level. A good example of an ATL Marketing approach is a national, or even a global TV ad campaign, where the same advert is shown across the country to people of all demographics. Instead of targeting the ad at specific people identified already as potential customers, the purpose of the ad is to broaden a brand’s horizons, reaching more people and establishing themselves more clearly and with a clear image.

    Other examples include print media and radio broadcasts which again reach a multitude of different people over a large area thereby accessing a mass market of prospective customers.

    Examples of Above-the-Line Promotion


    Television is one of the most popular forms of advertising. People watch TV because it’s entertaining and informative. They are able to see what you do, where you live, and how much money you make. If you want to reach people, you must use above-the-line ads.

    Above-the-line advertisements are paid for by companies. This type of ad includes things like commercials, infomercials, public service announcements, and product placements. These types of ads cost more money, but they generate more interest in your brand.

    You can choose from various types of advertisements to include in your above-the-line campaign. Here are some examples:

    Local ads: These ads are usually placed on billboards, bus stops, etc. They’re often seen near where people live.

    National ads: These ads are typically seen during prime time or late night hours. They’re usually seen on cable channels like CNN, Fox News, etc.

    International ads: These ads are seen on foreign networks like BBC World News, Al Jazeera English, etc.

    Print Media

    Print media includes newspapers or magazines. The main purpose of using print media is to reach a large number of people quickly. This method has been used for decades, however, nowadays more people are inclined to use the internet to access content online.


    Radio advertising is one of the oldest and highly effective forms of advertising. Radio ads are generally good for consumer recall and a call to action. Moreover, they can be targeted to a local, national, and international exposure of customers.

    Advantages of ATL Marketing

    ATL is a good way to promote and build your brand, but it is difficult to measure the exact impact and return on investment. This is why it is more untargeted; the purpose is not to see a precise conversion rate but to make customers generally aware of your brand or product and increase your visibility.

    Below the Line Marketing (BTL)

    BTL, however, is used in the opposite way to ATL. Below the Line Marketing is aimed specifically at targeted individuals that have been identified as potential customers. Popular BTL strategies include outdoor advertising, such as billboards and flyers, direct marketing, such as utilizing email and social media, and sponsorship of events. The latter is particularly growing in popularity as giving a memorable experience to your potential customers makes your brand in turn more memorable, and people more disposed to it.

    Examples of Below the-Line Promotion

    Direct Mail 

    Direct mail marketing can be an excellent way to reach out to potential customers. It usually involves printing large quantities of material in bulk, addressing envelopes, and mailing them to people. This type of marketing is most often used by businesses that want to send promotional materials directly to consumers.

    For instance,older generations tend to prefer receiving physical items such as catalogs, flyers, and brochures which can be sent out via delivery services. This is why they are still popular among marketers as it allows them to reach particular demographic and customer segments whilst still being able to personalize their ad.


    Sponsorship helps to ensure that ads are seen by people who are their target consumers. It also allows brands to reach new audiences, improve their publicity and build their reputation. 

    Trade shows and Exhibitions

    Direct mail campaigns are also great for promoting your business at trade shows because they allow you to reach out directly to potential customers who may be interested in attending your event. Offering key promotional messages such as exclusive offers or other incentives for joining will increase your conversion rate and attraction efficiency.

    However, today, businesses aim to take advantage of e-mail marketing and online advertisements that cost less and take less time than traditional methods such as direct mail.

    Email Marketing

    Email is a very effective way of communicating with customers in today’s digitalized world. In fact, it is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. Direct mail campaigns are expensive because you pay upfront for printing and postage, but email marketing costs nothing to send out. You simply pay for each recipient’s inbox, and since you know exactly how many recipients there are, you can calculate your return on investment (ROI).

    The effectiveness of email marketing campaigns is easy to measure. For example, you can use analytics software to track opens and clicks and compare those numbers against previous campaigns. If a campaign generates more traffic, you know that your audience is responding positively to the messages.

    In addition, there are plenty of marketing automation campaigns and free solutions out there like MailChimp and Constant Contact. These platforms allow you to set up automated emails and newsletters without having to do it yourself. They also provide templates and pre-made designs to help you get started quickly.

    Targeted Search Engine Marketing

    Online marketing helps businesses target their advertising campaigns by using keywords and other search terms related to their business. This allows them to generate leads who might be interested in what they offer. The best way to use these tools is to create ads that match specific keywords.

    If you are looking for a budget-friendly solution, b2b companies can benefit from paid search ads. They allow you to advertise your products online without having to pay upfront for expensive print advertisements. Instead, you pay each time someone clicks on one of your adverts.

    In-Store Promotion

    In-store marketing are commonly used in retail stores and they are another example of below the line activities. For example, visual merchandising, retailing pop-up stores, sampling, point-of-sale (POS) displays, and sales promotions are all effective ways to encourage customers to buy your products and increase your ROIs.

    Advantages of BTL Marketing

    Unlike ATL, BTL is very focused on targeting specific ads to certain people, ensuring the content and location line up as clearly as possible with the intent of these potential customers. BTL also differs in that it is much more focused on return on investment (ROI), gaining user conversions, and quantifying success. Instead of simply raising awareness of the brand, BTL is designed to ensure direct consumers for the product or brand, by focusing directly on the user and their wants. This form of engagement marketing is usually easily quantifiable with the advantage of highly trackable results.

    Disadvantages of BTL Marketing

    The main disadvantage of BTL advertising is that it comes with a risk. You need to be willing to spend some amount of money upfront for ads, which may not yield results. Another disadvantage is that you don’t know how much traffic you’ll receive until after the ad campaign has begun. Therefore, you will need to consider the costs and time involved when deciding whether or not you want to use paid traffic campaigns.

    Through the Line Marketing (TTL)

    Finally, we come to Through the Line Marketing or TTL Marketing. This combines the wider audience and direct approaches, of ATL and BTL Marketing, to attempt to both raise brand awareness and target specific potential customers and convert these into measurable and quantifiable sales. One example of this is 360-degree marketing, where you not only have a national TV campaign but supplement this with targeted flyers and newspaper ads. Another example of TTL Advertising is to use of Digital Marketing, combining online banner ads with social media posts and blogs, for instance. With these advertising strategies and an integrated marketing approach, you’ll be certain to cover a range of your target audience.

    Digital Marketing Strategies

    Social media platforms are important for through-the-line marketers because they allow them to reach out to customers directly via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They also provide an interactive media where they can share information about new products and promotions. Through the line marketers can use these platforms to build relationships with their customers, which helps increase sales in return. More relevantly, digital distribution is important in today’s technologically advanced world.

    The clear benefit of a TTL approach is that you are attacking two fronts, simultaneously improving general awareness and also aiming to increase traffic and sales. However, TTL is more expensive to use than either ATL or BTL alone. For this reason, it is normally utilized only by larger and more established companies with the money to back such a large approach.


    So, what is the difference between ATL, BTL, and TTL? Above the Line Marketing are advertising activities that are largely untargeted, aimed at a large number of people in order to generally improve brand awareness and image while finding it more difficult to quantify results and ROI. Below the Line Marketing is more specific to potential customers, targeting people with content that will speak to them and being much easier to see the impact it has. Through the Line Marketing involves combining both approaches to target specific individuals and impact a greater number of people on a broader scale while giving measurable data on its impact, though costly and therefore usually used by financially secure companies.

    When choosing between ATL, BTL, or TTL, you should consider how much money you want to spend, what your target market is, and what your competitors are doing. If you want to build a long-term business, then you need to focus on building a strong customer base utilizing TV advertisements or other ATL methods.

    Large businesses will typically invest in advertising through traditional media like television, radio, print, etc., whereas small-to-medium sized businesses may choose to spend their marketing budget on digital channels like social media, email, or online campaigns as it is more affordable. Thus, the marketing method you choose will largely depend on the nature of your business and its objective.

    Nevertheless, these types of marketing have their own pros and cons and are better suited to different companies and their needs at different times. To be sure of which promotional strategy is right for you, take the time to think about what the needs of your brand truly are and its corporate identity, and if you need any further assistance with this, we are happy to help guide you to the type of marketing that is right for you!