ATL, BTL, TTL: when media and non-media play the line.

Dear Hivers

The three acronyms ATL, BTL, TTL are anglicisms used by advertising agencies and in marketing jargon to designate the type of advertising or promotional investment of a brand.


This traditional distinction has nevertheless become much more blurred since the advent of digital.

But what do these three letters correspond to?

Above the Line ( ATL )
Literally "above the line", ATL refers to expenses involving the services of an advertising agency. ATL has therefore become synonymous with advertising and refers to all promotional activities carried out through the mass media : press, television, posters, radio, cinema and the Internet.

The ATL focuses on mass communication, it creates brand awareness and has no direct contact with consumers.

Below the line ( BTL )
The BTL designates against spending offline media and includes the actions of direct marketing and sales promotion, alternative advertising campaigns (viral marketing, marketing point of sale, sponsorship, exhibitions and events) as well as press relations, public relations ...

The non-media is an immediate or deferred incentive to purchase, all the more effective and profitable as it targets a small and specific group. It uses less conventional methods and focuses on more direct and personalized means of communication.

The non-media now accounts for almost 2/3 of annual budgets , but this proportion varies greatly between sectors and can reach 80% for trade and industry (BtoB).

Through the line ( TTL )
More recently, a third acronym has been born, which refers to activities aimed at integrating both ATL and BTL.The strength of integrated communication plays on the consistency of messages across several media to arouse curiosity and convince customers.

The development of Internet- related marketing investments now complicates the historical distinction between non-media and media because, depending on their nature, these investments can be allocated to both media (ATL) and non-media (BTL).

But which line are we talking about?
The origin of these expressions goes, according to Michael Baker John, to 1954 of the practice of Procter & Gamble which paid the advertising agencies differently from other suppliers linked to sales promotion activities.

The line was therefore born from an accounting definition distinguishing the top of the line (capital expenditure) from the bottom of the line (current expenditure). Marketing managers have become accustomed to presenting their communication budgets in the form of a table, putting media expenses, i.e. advertising, and non-media expenses below, both parties being separated by a line.

The line also refers to the profit line of advertising agencies ; with ATL activities more profitable than BTL activities which do not involve large budgets or media fees.

In conclusion
Over time, the ATL & BTL distinction has widened. The line is no longer accounting but rather semantic since it distinguishes mass awareness marketing from direct and committed marketing.

Traditionally, a careful mix of ATL and BTL marketing has been essential to drive sales and build brand awareness.

Today, the reduction in advertising budgets and the evolution of digital and mobile communication are changing the game and shifting the line more and more towards targeted, personalized, connected, measurable campaign. in short, towards BTL.

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