Below the line advertising definition

Updated April 17, 2017

Below the line advertising is one of the two key categories of advertising (the other is above the line advertising). Typically this form of advertising involves more direct contact with customers, and it is usually not commission-based but paid for through flat fees. The rapidly changing world of advertising and promotion is starting to make some people question if this term is becoming outdated.


According to, the term "below the line" in the context of advertising refers to "Promotional methods (such as catalogue marketing, direct marketing, and trade fair marketing) which are under the direct control of the marketer (client) and earn no commissions for the advertising agency." The definition owes its roots to how advertising agencies used to charge for services.


Below the line advertising is meant to illicit a more direct response than above the line advertising. Catalogues, e-mail marketing and door-to-door sales promotions are examples of below the line advertising campaigns that create a direct connection with the potential customer. These campaigns differ from advertising on television and radio, which are common to above the line advertising.


The results of a below the line advertising campaign can be much easier to measure than results from a traditional media campaign involving TV and radio. Direct marketing responses and sales are easier to track because the contact with the consumer is more obvious. Companies might also find some benefit of not paying commission to an ad agency, which the agency charges by acting as a "middle-man" between you and the large media outlet. This can potentially create a greater profit margin if the results of the campaign are good.


According to Geoff Lancaster, a marketing professional from the UK, below the line advertising promotions are becoming a more essential part of the communication mix of every company, and as people continue to get more habituated to traditional above the line techniques, this trend will continue. What this means is that more interaction-based advertising such as exhibitions and sponsorship activities, which are all growing in popularity, will continue an upward trend into the advertising field.


Bonnie Carlson, president of the Association for Integrated Marketing, says "...the old thinking of 'above the line' and 'below the line' is dated. In this economic climate, more has to be done with less - more innovation, more speed, less money, less 'tried and true'." In addition, one must consider the long-term capabilities of below the line advertising, as these promotions are usually medium to short-term in nature.

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About the Author

Alexander Cequea has been writing since 2008. He is an activist, speaker and film producer whose work has been featured in "Enlightennext Magazine" and the Environmental News Network. Cequea is currently producing a documentary about sustainability and consciousness. He has a Master of Business Administration in sustainable business from Maharashi University.