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Make Advertising Work for You

Above or below the line? A unified brand voice makes advertising across all platforms simpler.




Over the years, advertising has been divided into a range of theories and categories that professionals adhere to in order to create campaigns. These include Above The Line (ATL) and Below The Line (BTL), which are essentially just rough groupings designed to help people understand what kind of advertising is being done. The entire process is, in truth, much simpler than most marketers would have you believe.

What are ATL and BTL?

  • ATL – Generally this is advertising that is visible – posters, billboards, magazines, television and newspapers, to name a few mass media avenues.
  • BTL – This refers to the marketing you do that isn’t quite so tangible. It’s your point-of-sale promotions, PR or the search engine optimisation you do on your website.

Dual strategies

So, how do you merge the two effectively without losing what makes them unique?

Both ATL and BTL are highly effective methods of advertising that require very different campaign structures in order to work. However, there’s a new way to bring the two concepts together – Through The Line (TTL). This approach allows you to integrate a range of platforms, regardless of which stream they fall into.

The idea is to fully optimise elements from both in order to see measurable returns on your marketing.

This may sound very complicated, but essentially it’s about pinpointing your brand message and voice, and ensuring that it’s consistent for everything you do. Once you’ve established your identity – in terms of colours, design and tone – you can use this on any piece of advertising you deploy.

These elements can be implemented for giant billboards on the highway and on each page of your website.

However, it’s important to remember that the manner in which you do this will be different for each distribution channel. For example, the design of your flyers shouldn’t be executed in the same way as your website. They must relate to each other, while still sticking to best practices for their unique space in the marketing arena.

Draw attention to all channels

Of course, one of the simplest ways to tie ATL and BTL together is to use each channel as a way of pointing to the other. For example, if you’re in retail, you can upload your catalogues onto your Facebook page and then tell people to visit your stores for more information.

However, this must be backed up at each branch, with posters for example. On the other hand, you can make sure that your flyers always have your website’s URL printed on them. Whenever you get the opportunity to use the various platforms open to you as a way of promoting each other – take it.

Remember, with a unified brand voice, each marketing channel that you deploy serves to reinforce your message every time someone comes into contact with your company.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ann Druce

    Dec 12, 2012 at 09:32

    Through-the-line has been around for years, and is also sometimes known by other terminology, like integrated marketing campaign or 360 degree marketing.

    There is no question that this approach is very effective in building relationships with your target market, but the selection of the appropriate channels is a strategic decision. Not every opportunity suits every brand.

    Furthermore, budgets are also a key factor in the decision process. If your budget is limited, it is better to one or two things well and make an impact, Spreading your resources too thin could leave you without any brand recognition or recollection.

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Consumers Don’t Have An Attention Problem. It’s Just That Your Advertising Isn’t Very Good

With so much media available to consume, quality matters more than ever for ads.

Brendan Gahan




If a brand releases an ad and no one sees it, is it still called “advertising”?

People have more tools than ever before to skip out on ads entirely. More than three-fourths of the people in North America engage in automated ad-blocking, and 10 percent of them block ads across four kinds of media or more, according to Deloitte. Much like the question of trees falling in forests, what good is a brand’s message at a time when people generally don’t want to hear its sound?

Ad units are shrinking in the wake of ad-blocking technology, but human attention span remains unchanged. Today’s consumers are surely more distracted than any previous generation, so they guard their attention spans more mercilessly. When advertisers can successfully command that attention for a minute or two, it means the consumer is watching an ad for the same reason he or she binge-watches Stranger Things on Netflix: The ad has managed to present itself as relevant or vital to the viewer. It wins every time.

Just 10 years ago, Gillette dominated the razor blade market. Its ads were comfortable, predictable 30-second units that reminded everyone of something they already knew: You need razor blades on the regular, so you might as well buy Gillette.

Related: Advertising Consulting Business Plan

But, the market had to reorganise itself with the appearance of Dollar Shave Club and its distinctly off-the-wall messaging. The notorious startup used quirky 90-second ads to spread its word online, presenting itself as unignorable by comparison to the competition. Even though we live in a time when people can skip ads, block ads and avoid ads, Dollar Shave Club’s marketing won major viral attention. It didn’t exactly kill Gillette’s Goliath, but it sure made Goliath sweat.

The lesson here is that people don’t hate all ads, they just hate the crappy ones. The bar for perceived quality in advertising is so low these days that many choose not to engage with anything on principle alone. People even close web pages they want to visit when the page auto-plays a video ad. When job number one of the advertiser is to interest consumers, it’s never been easier to annoy them.

Far from the rise of the six-second ad unit, there’s strong evidence that people generally want long-form content.

Ooyala reports that long-form video content consumption is up 30 percent from last year. Instagram used to be all about sharing individual photos and short videos, but now with the launch of IGTV supports 60-minute videos. The most widely subscribed YouTuber, PewDiePie, regularly posts 20-minute-long videos to a community of millions of fans. Joe Rogan’s podcast blends comedy, politics and philosophy for two to three hours at a stretch, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

People can, of course, handle stories and follow them over time. It’s one of the defining characteristics of humanity. But, there are so many stories competing for our attention nowadays that we are extremely selective about which ones we let into our lives. If any of these opt-in narratives will come from advertising, those ads must first run the ad-blocking gauntlet, then be immediately relevant and spectacular to the consumer upon arrival. The bar for perceived quality in advertising these days is actually quite high.

Related: 9 Strategies For Memorable Advertising When Your Audience Is Chronically Distracted

But, there is meaningful assistance on your way to clearing it. Social listening tools trawl the internet to learn what’s being said about and around different brands. With help from a company specialising in consumer insights and some Nielsen data, brands can better learn who their customers are, what they love and what they don’t love. This is key information in designing a vital, relevant message. In simplest terms, a brand must know its audience. The marketing needs to reflect what the audience is interested in, not what company leadership is interested in.

From there it’s only a matter of iterating and optimising. The great thing about digital advertising is that you get feedback instantly. You can iterate a campaign to make it better. Simple tweaks in copy, reframing key ideas and A/B testing can help make your campaign truly great.

Otherwise you run the risk of a mediocre campaign and a wasted media spend. No one wants to hear that sound.

This article was originally posted here on

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6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From

Don’t stretch the truth the way Volkswagen, New Balance, Airborne, Splenda, Rice Krispies and Red Bull did.

Jayson Demers



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New entrepreneurs are often tempted to exaggerate what new products or services are capable of. No wonder: Presented to a powerful investor, a stretch of the truth just might help land that series A funding.

And, less seriously, a bit of marketing flair or showmanship, in many cases, will help an entrepreneur accomplish his or her without many repercussions.

But, in other cases, if you’re that entrepreneur who is caught deliberately misleading investors or consumers, you could face false advertising charges – and the ruin of your brand’s reputation. Consider these six examples:

  1. Airborne
  2. Splenda
  3. New Balance
  4. Rice Krispies
  5. Volkswagen
  6. Red Bull
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Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell

If consumers associate your product with fear, they may not have a strong connection to your brand.

Scott Brown



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Sixty percent of Subaru owners have dogs. So in 2008, when the company decided to sponsor Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, it made a major break from previous advertising campaigns — ones that showed drivers with other cars getting stuck in the snow, for example. Alongside a pledge to donate $250 to charity for every car sold, the company began to understand how to appeal to its core audience through their own interests — and how those tied together in a Subaru.

Since 2008, the company has been running a campaign called “Love,” one that brings together all the attributes that Subaru is known for — including safety and reliability. Instead of talking to customers by telling them all the bad things that will happen if they don’t drive a Subaru (e.g., getting stuck in the snow), the company began speaking in a more positive language — including bringing furry friends along on drives.

For many, the instinctive approach toward marketing is to tell an audience why they have to buy your product. Bad things will happen otherwise, and yours is the best in market. The others won’t help you reach your goal. The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into account the impact of brand image on product marketing. Sure, you might skid in the snow without a Subaru, but you need to think positively of the company as a whole if you’re going to be drawn to its products in the first place.

Related: How do I know that my product is market-ready?

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