Below The Line Advertising

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4415 , Published on 15 October 2012

In a market rapidly adjusting to changes in technology, available information and heightened consumer demand, traditional and brand oriented advertising is no longer the primary driver of customer behaviour. Its reflected in the dwindling print newspaper circulation and the stagnant market of network television commercials, focus of marketers has now shifted from an “above the line” focus on reaching a broad population with emotionally oriented appeals, to a “below the line” approach that stresses targeted customer centric communications and concrete returns on investment.

Below-the-line methods are very specific, memorable activities focused on targeted groups of consumers. They are under the control of the organization. The purpose of these activities has been to develop the brand by creating awareness and building a brand profile.

Below-the-line methods include:

  • Sponsorship
  • Sales Promotions
  • Public Relations
  • Personal Selling
  • Direct Marketing


Consumers are faced with a barrage of advertisements every day in their lives. People are starting to lose interest and even despise the mass advertising being followed through traditional channels of mass advertising like – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. Consumers are using technology to counter the entry of ads into their personal lives.

  • TV viewers are resorting to digital video recorders and on demand technologies to fast forward through advertisements
  • Some people use mobile devices to download commercial free versions of popular television shows
  • Internet users are using software to block spam and popup advertisements

Marketers have been tempted to follow one to one advertising or targeting niche customers. But the practice of targeting “niche” customers can prove to be costly for organizations.Sometimes also the costs of advertising are more than the costs allocated in the budget for promotional purposes.

4 specific techniques have been identified where marketers can reach broad segments of people without overshooting their advertising budget.

Catching people in the bottlenecks

Though people can easily screen advertisements when they are in their homes but people every day spend time outside their homes where they lack the required control. The examples of bottlenecks can be – waiting in an airport lounge, travelling in elevator, going up in an escalator in a mall or it can even be travelling in a taxi.

In these bottlenecks of life, advertisers can reach people with acceptable messages.




The purpose of advertising on taxis for advertisers can be many. The taxi owner gets revenues from space which could not have been utilized for a better purpose. And the advertiser gets better visibility since the taxi can roam from place to place with different customers aboard. This can prove to be beneficial for marketers than billboard ads which are fixed and whose effectiveness depends on the billboard location.


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Also on elevators, companies have installed a wireless digital screen which broadcasts short news and entertainment programs. The recall rate increases with frequent travel. MasterCard provided complimentary snacks, movie headphones, puzzles and games to travellers on American Airlines and the flight attendants publicized the benefits. Even seats on aircrafts and taxis in developed countries are fitted with small screens which displays ads and for consumers using the means of transport, they can’t avoid it altogether. Companies have also advertised in public restrooms and toilets.

Using a Trojan Horse

The concept of “sneaking” ads is familiar with product placement in films, television programs and even in video games today. Considering the example of “coffee cups”, Millions of office goers use insulated coffee cups every day during office hours at their desks or in board room meetings, etc. Normally the companies won’t allow advertisers to advertise to people inside the office, but the concept of placing small ads in the coffee cups helps in gaining visibility for marketers without burning a hole in their pocket.

                                 FedEx Ads on Coffee Cup                          Advertising on Garbage Trucks

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Other unique ways can include advertising on pizza boxes, or advertising on pay checks in restaurants and deposit slips in banks or on the rear of an airlines ticket.

Also recently garbage truck advertising has come to the fore. The municipalities can get revenues from unused spaces on trucks and companies on their parts get huge unused places to advertise.

                                  Use of Mahindra Flyte in 3 Idiots              Omega watch in James Bond Movies

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Targeting People at play

People generally don’t like to be bothered when they are vacationing or doing some leisure activity like playing golf. But advertisers have realized that giving people something they can use is a more thoughtful approach to brand building than the tactic of pushing more and more messages when people are glued to the television or computer. Since this kind of advertising doesn’t disrupt the people’s activities it is seen as less intrusive for people.

For Example: Golf Carts are being fitted with GPS systems. Ads can be placed and shown in the GPS system when player is moving from one hole to another hole. In Hotels, People can be given trial kits of Razors, toothbrushes or body wash of some reputed company like Gillette or Oral B.

Ads placed in GPS system in Golf Carts


Getting people to play interactive games

New technologies help marketers to interact with consumers in public spaces without employing massive sales teams. For example: Nokia when it launched its 3300 model contributed a quarter of its advertising budget on interactive posters. An Adidas Ad replicated a virtual football field wherein customers could play by passing a virtual ball to each other.

Many people interviewed after these experiences were enthusiastic about the whole process which included fun events and planned to tell others about it.

Reactrix Interactive Posters


Hence in the above examples we have seen how the focus of marketers is shifting from the traditional modes of advertising to the other newer modes of advertising.  Also direct mails, print response ads and telemarketing are coming up in a big way to open up new avenues in advertising and leading to heightened competition among companies.

This article has been authored by Shashank Srivastava and Sarbaswarup Mohanty from IIM Lucknow.

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