Above-the-Line Marketing


Above-the-line marketing is a term that has historically been used in reference to marketing activities with relatively broad reach that closely relate to brand positioning. An example is a national television campaign which broadcasts creative content to viewers across one or more networks.

This type of marketing is broadly customer/consumer-facing to build brand awareness, trial, and adoption, and ultimately to re-enforce or grow the equity of the related brand. In practice, given the evolution of the media landscape and the emergence of technology-driven marketing activities, the historical distinction between above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) marketing has become blurred to a point that practitioners may avoid these terms entirely, largely to avoid confusion, in favor of other more relevant terminology.

This use of the term ‘above the line’ (and its counterpart ‘below the line’) came into existence in 1954 within the Proctor and Gamble company to denote traditional advertising activities – television, radio, printed media, outdoor, movie theatre ads – paid through advertising agencies (ATL) and promotional activities – sampling, discount programs, sweepstakes, sponsorships – paid directly or through other intermediaries (BTL). The term arose spontaneously as only the traditional advertisement costs were included in the draft budget forcing employees to draw a line below these costs and write in the costs of promotional activities. [1,2]



  1. Michael John Baker & Susan J. Hart The Marketing Book pages 424 – 467 Butterworth-Heinemann 2008
  2. Marijana Sehovic, Mirjana Dudkovic, Jelena Mladenovic The Effectiveness of ATL and BTL Advertising Techniques pages 1134-1135 in Proceedings of the XIV International Symposium SYMORG 2014

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