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Examples of Above the Line Marketing

March 20, 2021

Sometimes a brand has to “go big” to yield sizable results. Creating brand awareness among a large audience is a tall task for even the most recognizable brands. When analyzing how certain brands became the big names they are today, above the line marketing techniques are a common thread. “Going big” in the world of marketing involves above the line marketing techniques.  

In this article we will define above the line marketing, compare the positives and negatives of above the line promotions, explain the difference between above the line and below the line marketing, and discuss a few examples. 

What is Above the Line Marketing?

Above the line marketing, or ATL marketing, is a mass media method for targeting a wide audience of potential customers. One of its main goals is to build brand recognition. A few of these methods include radio, magazines, newspapers, television, and billboards. 

This technique is how some of the biggest, most recognizable brands maintain their status in the minds of their customers. 

Positives and Negatives of Above the Line Promotion

Above the line marketing is great for building brand awareness with a big group of people because your messaging is spread across several large platforms, creating repetition with your audience. It’s also impactful and noticeable because it combines visual and audible elements which are sure to grab your customers’ attention.. 

Due to the vast nature of these techniques, sometimes it can be hard to measure how successful they are as part of your overall campaign. 

They might be working for you or they might not be. It’s difficult to measure whether your customer purchased your product or service because they heard your radio commercial, watched your tv ad, or saw your billboard.  

ATL marketing can also become very costly. Television commercials, billboards, radio commercials, and magazine ads can be very expensive. If you’re using an ad agency to help you secure placements, it can be even costlier. 

What is the Difference Between Above the Line and Below the Line Marketing?

While above the line marketing targets mass media outlets with large audiences, below the line marketing targets more specific audiences. Below the line marketing strategies include Google search results ads, social media marketing, public relations campaigns, and promotional events.  

BTL marketing is all about creating a more personal connection with your audience by focusing on direct contacts that initiate direct responses. While ATL marketing builds brand awareness, BTL marketing builds brand trust. 

It can be hard to accurately measure the results of ATL marketing campaigns, but in contrast, BTL marketing campaigns are highly measurable. The objectives behind BTL campaigns can provide insight on if you’re spending your marketing dollars wisely. Website visitors, click-through rates, ecommerce sales, and social media followers, likes, and engagement can all be measured quantitatively. 

Below the line marketing methods are typically less expensive compared to above the line marketing methods. Paid social media posts, Google ads, and public relations campaigns are usually less expensive than tv commercials, magazine ads, and billboards. 

While one technique might seem better or more effective than the other, it’s important to remember the goals of the marketing campaign. Both marketing techniques serve certain purposes. Depending on what a brand is trying to achieve, each tactic offers different benefits and drawbacks. 

Above the Line Marketing Example 

The first example we are going to review are television commercials, specifically Super Bowl ad placements. With the average 30 second Super Bowl commercial slot costing around $5 million, it’s a big investment for even large companies. 

Pepsi started running Super Bowl commercials in 1987. Over the years Pepsi has hired supermodels and celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, and Beyonce to help communicate their brand messaging. 

Pepsi commercial around superbowl

Of course, using big-names to promote your brand majorly adds to the overall expense of producing a commercial of this caliber. The cost is big, but the reward is brand recognition, being memorable in the minds of your customers, and brand exposure. Consumers are still discussing the iconic Cindy Crawford commercial from the 1990s, and Pepsi even had her remake the ad ten years later on its anniversary. 

Above the Line Promotion Example 

The second example we are going to review is from Apple. The billboards Apple used to promote the iPod are easily recognizable, memorable, and attention-grabbing. After seeing one or two of these billboards while driving down the highway, you begin recognizing the silhouettes of people dancing to music, the white iPod with headphones, and the colorful backdrops. They are unmistakably Apple ads. 

apple ads example on a billboard for the ipod

Apple billboard promotion for the ipod

Having so many billboards across a densely populated city like Los Angeles was no small feat. The design is visually stimulating and attention grabbing. The branding is so clearly Apple’s. While it might have been expensive, this ATL billboard campaign succeeded in promoting brand recognition to a large audience. 

Above the Line Advertising Example 

For our third example we are going to review print ads run in magazines. Newspapers and magazines allow you to reach a large audience across several demographics. The cost of print ads run across several large magazines and newspapers can be expensive. 

Guiness add example on above the line advertising

If you look closely at the ad, the shape of the stacked phone resembles a glass of foamy Guinness. The ad resonates with their target market: people who drink both out at the bar and at home. It reaches a large audience across several publications. 

This advertisement helps foster brand recognition but it also pushes the brand’s messaging of truly enjoying a beer in the company of friends. The next time someone orders a Guinness at the bar, they’ll remember this ad and hopefully put their phone down. 


Above the line marketing techniques target the masses in hopes of reaching the widest possible pool of potential customers. Common techniques include billboards, radio ads, tv commercials, and print ads. ATL promotions are attention-grabbing and build brand awareness. 

ATL marketing is large scale for the masses while BTL marketing is more personalized. ATL marketing can be expensive with hard to measure results. BTL marketing is highly measurable and has many inexpensive avenues for execution. 

A few examples of above the line marketing are Pepsi’s Super Bowl tv commercials, Apple’s iPod billboards, and magazine ads for Guinness. Each technique was costly in their own way but also further pushed the brand’s messaging and kept the brand at the forefront of a large audience. 

For large brands like Pepsi, Apple, and Guinness, the benefits of above the line marketing make it worth the high costs. 

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