Above the line is a marketing term for advertising that reaches a large, broadly targeted market usually by mass media. Below the line is a term for ads that are highly targeted. Both terms date back to the 1950s.
Above The LineAbove the line is advertising that targets a broad audience, often using mass media. In many cases above the line ads are intended to build brand awareness or support a campaign such as a sales event. The creative aspects of producing a video advertisement or graphic are also considered above the line.
Below The LineBelow the line ads reach a specific target market or an individual. For example, a direct mailing campaign to specific customers is considered below the line. Modern advertising techniques such as contextual and behavioral ads are also below the line. In many cases, below the line ads are highly measurable.
Through The LineThrough the line indicates a hybrid technique such as a campaign that includes both mass media and highly targeted contextual ads.
The LineThe term "line" originated with a financial concept that denotes whether a cost is considered general overhead. It became an advertising term due to the way that some advertising fees were charged as commissions and others were considered overhead. This is no longer relevant to the marketing term. In other words, the accounting treatment of advertising costs has no relationship to above the line as a marketing concept.
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