Adedamola Adeloye: A Marketer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Strategy

Adedamola Adeloye is the Product Marketing & Communications Manager at Kolomoni.


Have you ever come across the terms ATL, BTL, and TTL in a job description or marketing article and felt a wave of confusion? You’re not alone! These Marketing buzzwords can sound intimidating, but are actually quite easy to  understand and you should not let them scare you away from a great opportunity.

The terms Above-the-Line (ATL), Below-the-Line (BTL), and Through-the-Line (TTL) were first used in 1954 by Proctor and Gamble [Source: TBS Marketing]. Back then, the line referred to how Advertising agencies separated direct, targeted campaigns from those more general and widespread aimed at brand awareness.

Simplifying the Marketing Buzzwords

Above-the-Line (ATL) Marketing: This approach aims for mass awareness. Think of catchy TV commercials, radio jingles, or eye-catching billboards. ATL campaigns target a broad audience and build brand recognition. While measuring the exact return on investment (ROI) can be tricky, a successful ATL campaign can significantly enhance brand image and increase brand recall.

Below-the-Line (BTL) Marketing: This strategy focuses on highly targeted campaigns aimed at specific demographics or customer segments. Examples include Search Engine Marketing (SEM), sponsored social media ads, Email Marketing campaigns, and promotional events. BTL tactics allow for more measurable results and are often used to drive conversions and sales.

Advantages of BTL Marketing

  1. Targeted Reach: Reaches the right audience with a more focused message.
  2. Measurable Results: Easier to track conversions and ROI.
  3. Cost-Effective: Can be more budget-friendly compared to some ATL tactics.

Disadvantages of BTL Marketing

  1. Limited Reach: Doesn’t generate the same level of mass awareness as ATL.
  2. Requires Audience Research: Needs a deep understanding of your target audience.

Through-the-Line (TTL) Marketing

This approach combines the best of both ATL and BTL strategies. It creates a cohesive brand message across various channels, from television commercials to targeted social media ads. TTL Marketing aims to build brand awareness and drive conversions simultaneously, creating a 360-degree marketing experience for the customer. Examples include digital marketing campaigns that integrate social media, email marketing, and website optimisation.

The traditional distinction between ATL and BTL is becoming less clear-cut, particularly with the rise of social media. These platforms offer massive reach, traditionally associated with ATL, but also allow for highly targeted advertising, a hallmark of BTL. So, is all social media marketing through-the-line? Not necessarily.

A key factor to consider is the intent behind the campaign. If the social media campaign focuses on brand awareness and general messaging, it leans more towards above-the-line Marketing. Think of a captivating video ad on a popular platform showcasing your brand’s personality. While it reaches a broad audience, it doesn’t have a direct call to action.

However, if the campaign includes a direct call to action or a promotional offer, it falls more into the below-the-line category. Imagine a social media post with a discount code specifically targeted to a certain demographic interested in your product. This leverages the platform’s reach while delivering a targeted message with a clear response desired.

As a marketer, the key to a successful campaign is to choose the right approach for your brand and campaign goals. Consider the stage of your customer journey and ask vital questions. Are you creating brand awareness or driving sales? Leverage above-the-line Marketing for broad reach and brand building, below-the-line Marketing for targeted engagement and conversions, or leverage through-the-line Marketing for a comprehensive, integrated marketing strategy.

Marketing is all about connecting with your audience, and with the right strategy, you can make a lasting impact.


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