Through The Line Marketing – Let’s Have That Chat

Through The Line Marketing – Let’s Have That Chat


Above-the-line advertisers (TV, radio, clever print) have the prestige associated with big-budget, awareness-driving media. Meanwhile, the below-the-line marketers, being more clinical and covert, focus their energies on accurate targeting, measurable responses and optimisation opportunities within their target market.

Until now, the merits of BTL channels have never quite lived up to the celebrity of ATL’s attention-getting 30-second spot or the award-winning print campaign.

However, with the onset of measurable always-on customer data, the line drawn between traditional advertisers and direct marketers has blurred to the point of near nonexistence.

The only way over is through

There is a noticeable trend happening, where traditional advertisers are now adopting “old-school” direct-marketing principles like segmentation, test and learn, and purchase-based targeting.

Direct marketers are taking the lead on multi-channel media planning, splicing together both above and below the line strategies. Aptly dubbed this amalgamation is through-the-line marketing.

With through-the-line (TTL) media planning, direct marketers and traditional advertisers come together and collaborate on truly integrated campaigns. Many marketers define integration as consistent messaging and creative across channels. Yet there is a fine line between integrated marketing and redundant marketing.

Changing the conversation, not the language

Critical to planning and executing an effective multi-channel campaign is using each marketing vehicle to drive the behaviour that it’s best at driving.

Within a specific campaign, for example, TV might be deemed to be the best to build awareness while promotional print may be best to drive brick-and-mortar store visits. Targeted digital display could be used for ecommerce or cross-product promotion, while social media ticks the customer retention and brand advocacy task box.

Understanding the right strategic intent of each weapon in a marketer’s arsenal will enable truly integrated campaigns, where different channels work to drive business objectives across the customer lifecycle.

“ATL and BTL marketers have been getting along just fine. Why should I change my strategy?” I hear you say.

And you’d have a fair point. The broadcast business is a R900 billion industry. With numbers like that, there’s no real urgency to turn things upside-down. But I’ll tell you why you should consider it anyway.

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The next logical step

A through-the-line strategy should be considered evolutionary, not revolutionary. It’s a next step, as opposed to a new normal. As far as marketing progression goes, TTL is akin to monkeys learning to use tools for the first time.

Across channels, marketers already know how to drive their businesses and meet objectives.

However, they aren’t doing this as effectively (or efficiently) as possible for each individual customer segment.

With the above knowledge that comes from linking media exposure to customer-level purchase data, and the ability to execute due to technological advances, truly integrated customer plans are possible – as long as marketers can set aside their differences and collaborate.

After all, it doesn’t matter what side your bread is buttered on, as long as it’s buttered with data.

Shane Oosthuizen
Shane Oosthuizen is currently the chief copywriter at one of SA's leading digital agencies. Having spent a number of years in the creative arena, he has forged a reputable authority in the South African social and online marketing community.