What does Above the line mean in marketing terminology?

Above the line

Above the line (ATL) marketing is a term used to refer to a traditional, tried-and-tested method of advertising which typically achieves high visibility and has the potential to reach a wide audience. It is a form of marketing which uses non-internet media such as television, radio, newspapers and outdoor advertising, and is seen by many as the most effective way of communicating a brand’s message to the public.

At its simplest, ATL can be found everywhere. From billboards to radio jingles, posters to magazine advertisements; it is in these forms of advertising that brands draw the attention of their target audience and start the very important business of gaining their trust.

The term “Above the line” comes from the days of budgeting used in the advertising and film industry. The day-to-day business of production could only be paid for using money that was "below the line", the remaining money for advertising was called “above the line”.

Below the line advertising on the other hand is a method of promotion usually used in addition to above the line advertising, and is referred to as 'Non-Media Advertising'. This strategy works on a more targeted basis, and offers a higher degree of interaction as it is usually integrated through online and digital avenues.

For ATL to be successful it is essential to integrate campaigns across multiple mediums. This creates consistency, and a platform through which brands can reach the right audience with relevant messaging. This strategy is often part of a larger marketing plan, and should always be carefully planned and evaluated.

The key elements of ATL are planning, budgeting, creative execution, media placement and measurement. A brand’s ATL plan should articulate its overall vision, target audiences, desired outcomes and objectives, as well as a budget which will facilitate the delivery of the message.

At the heart of every ATL plan lies the creative concept. It’s this ‘hook’ which entices the desired audience, and as such should align with the message, brand positioning and be tailored to the intended channel.

At this stage the relevant media channels are identified. Media buyers can decide which options are the best fit for delivering the desired message, determine the most effective means of reaching the target audience, and measure the ROI of placements.

Finally feedback is obtained on the success of the plan and complete analysis of its performance is undertaken. It’s paramount to recognise when an ATL campaign is performing well, and to find out what went wrong when it isn’t.

Overall there are many elements to consider when creating an effective ATL plan; however, getting it right can provide a huge return on the advertising budget.

Ultimately the key to ATL success is the understanding of the target audience and how best to reach them. This knowledge will enable a brand to make informed decisions on their overall strategy, resources, budget and objectives.

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