October 27, 2014

Effective Marketing: The 'Line' Doesn't Exist Anymore

By Manish Mishra, Vice President (Sales)

What many of us learned in business school or in our first sales and marketing jobs is woefully out-of-date. In particular, creating a distinction - in a world of digital advertising - between 'above the line' and 'below the line' marketing no longer makes any sense.

Yet while effective marketers recognise this, many companies have not made the shift and as a result are deploying their resources poorly.

This GAP ad from the UAE links to the Men's Apparel section of the GAP website.
Is this an example of Above The Line, Below The Line or neither?

A Refresher Course: ATL vs BTL

Traditionally, Above The Line marketing consists of ads that build a company's brand, while targeting a large audience. ATL ads include:
  • Television and radio commericals
  • Newspaper and magazine ads
  • Classified ads in newspapers and the Yellow Pages
  • Billboard and other forms of outdoor advertising

    In contrast, Below The Line campaigns are more targeted and measurable. BTL ads often include an incentive to purchase. Examples of BTL ads include:
    • Coupons
    • Discounts
    • Free Gifts
    • Cash-back incentives
    • Loyalty programmes
    • Competitions and Prizes
    • Price Promotions
    • Point-of-sale displays

    Without question, internet and mobile ads can serve both these functions . . . often at the same time.

    Blurring the Line

    For several years now, companies have been linking mobile ads to direct sales.

    Take for example, this ad by Turkish Airlines.

    This campaign is aimed at consumers in Luxembourg. Viewers who click the banner are directed to a page that only shows offers for flights leaving the Luxembourg airport.

    Or consider this ad by the retailer MORE by Morello:

    The banner ad looks like a branding campaign, with images of branded jeans and a wallet. Users who click the banner, though, are offered the chance to receive a 10% discount, if they sign up for a newsletter subscription.

    Even digital campaigns that appear to be pure branding initiatives - like this one by Nokia which takes users to a product landing page that's designed to educate the public about product features - can be targetted to specific audiences and tracked in ways that traditional media can not.

    Ads like this one for the Ninja Turtles movie go a step further. While publicising the movie, it also promotes a free gift.

    In fact, this page - which the ad previously linked to - is set up by Golden Screen Cinemas just to offer movie-related promotions.

    So while some marketers would argue that these ads are 'below the line' because they feature customer targeting and data gathering, others would say that the ads are more in line with ATL advertising because they build brands and awareness.

    In fact, digital advertising blurs the line between these categories. We should stop referring to 'above' and 'below' the line altogether. Marketers should also spend less time trying to differentiate between desktop, mobile and social media campaigns for these are all legs of an effective digital campaign.

    Coming up soon: Earned, Owned and Paid Media . . . and how these 'new' categories are intrinsically interlinked!