Definition: Above The Line [ATL]

What does Above The Line mean?

Above The Line (or ATL) refers to conventional marketing techniques using mass media such as TV, Radio, Billboards or the Internet.

The term “The Line” came from a specific ad campaign. Back in 1954 Proctor and Gamble apparently paid different rates for different marketing techniques, and so “The Line” would have been an actual line in their accounting ledger.

At The Online Advertising Guide, we think it’s practical to think of “The Line” as being the moral line between obvious and not so obvious advertising. It’s a moral line, as people generally don’t like to be sold to without realising it.

“The Line” should also be thought of as being between mass media and one-on-one communications. These are the ways these terms are used most often when being discussed with regard to online advertising.

It is actually often argued that in the days of online advertising the terms Above The Line and Below The Line have lost their meaning (leading to the use of the term “Through The Line” which means both methods).

However, the distinctions still stand if you consider it as a moral/mass media “line”. Display Advertising and Video Advertising still count as #Above-The-Line, whereas Native Advertising, Email Marketing and possibly Lead Generation still count as Below The Line.

There is no precise definition as of yet, but this is a reasonable description of the terms general usage.


Other names for Above The Line (synonyms)



It’s the opposite of (antonyms)

Below The Line, BTL


Not to be confused with

Above The Fold, ATF, Atlanta

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