MxM Monday: Is BTL gaining acceptance as a must-have in a media plan?

10 Dec,2012


By Ananya Saha


Is Below-the-Line (BTL) advertising gaining bigger share of clients’ advertising budgets over the last few years? How innovative has BTL become, and what are the challenges it still faces?


Anwesh Bose, Senior VP, DDB Mudra Max

BTL has gained prominence over the years and will continue to do so as advertising communication is evolving from a ATL-BTL model to a Through the Line (TTL) model. The lines have blurred between ATL & BTL giving rise to a new phenomena where a medium can take the form of ATL or BTL depending on the need of the communication. The challenge today is for the communication professionals to justify the Return on Investments on any form of media and the pitch will keep getting higher. It is time for the industry to jointly work on a multimedia optimization model that would justify investments.


Narayan Devanathan, SVP, National Planning Head, Dentsu India Group

That’s a very broad question, but going by overall trends, the answer is probably yes. The more pertinent question, how much bigger is “bigger?” Who is measuring this? How does it differ by category? What all goes into the definition of BTL? For example, with the expansion of modern trade in retail, you’ll obviously see a lot more BTL money being spent on in-store merchandising, POS and promotional campaigns. A second factor affecting expanding BTL investments will likely be the short attention spans and the myriad of choices and screens that consumers interface with today. TV, radio, web and mobile are probably vying for the consumers’ attention simultaneously at all times. But with definitive metrics, the impact of last-mile tactics and campaigns will be a key differentiator between brand success and business success. All this does factor into the fact that, yes, BTL as a share of clients’ ad budgets is seeing an upsurge.


Innovations can happen on three fronts: technology, measurability and the balancing act between strategic and tactical objectives of the campaign.


On the technology front, something like RFID, for example, can turn walking behind a shopping cart into inputs for a shelf-stacking strategy in-store. A combination of GPS, augmented reality and a promotional scheme can turn a mobile phone into a CRM platform. But innovations like these and others depend on the evolution of both marketers and the retail (and other parts of the brand) environment.


Technology can also be the difference between best-case guesstimates and data-driven strategies that reduce wastage of marketing investments.


Finally, marketers have to find ways to close the gap between strategic and tactical goals. If brand-building is a strategic goal, how do you use BTL not just be a one-off tactic or part of promotions but contribute to brand-building?


All said and done, as with ATL, the point of all communications, regardless of medium, is to create stories, conversations and transactions (not always monetary) that people want to engage in. If that perspective is missed, then we will continue to see a “line” and see “below” and “above” this imaginary line that only marketers – not consumers – see.


Nina Jaipuria, EVP and Business Head, Sonic and Nickelodeon India

Nickelodeon has always believed in the virtues of experiential marketing through on-ground engagements. While TV helps in reaching out to millions of viewers, it allows for only one way-communication. On the other hand, BTL promotions despite the high cost per contact have the potential of making the engagement truly memorable for consumers. There is nothing that can replace the experience and thrill that kids feel when they meet their favourite Nicktoons Ninja Hattori, Dora, SpongeBob or Keymon in person.


In addition to engaging our young viewers at schools, malls, retail chains etc, we also conduct van activities that helps us reach out to smaller towns and villages in the interiors of India. For example during the launch of Motu-Patlu, we engaged kids in over 30 towns like Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, Mathura, etc in Uttar Pradesh and Gwalior Khandwa, Indore, Ratlam, Bhopal, Jabalpur, etc in Madhya Pradesh. We often do mall activities to celebrate days and occasions that are important to kids.


At Nickelodeon, we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways of connecting with kids all through the year. In-store promotions and toon visits at retail stores further helps in strengthening our on-ground presence when it comes to merchandize


Brand partnerships also play a very important role in creating unique propositions for designing innovative on-ground programmes. BTL promotions are thus an integral part of our media plan as they enable us to connect with our consumers and give them a ‘Touch. Feel. Play.’ experience. In today’s day and age, it is imperative to be present across multiple touch points and to tangibilize the brand.


Uday Mohan, Executive Director – North, MPG India

With the increasing fragmentation of the media space it is not enough to just make “contact” with the consumer, but more importantly to “connect” with him. First hand experience of the product/service offering and the customization of it allow this impact extending it to sales as also brand perception. It is here where the relevance of BTL in the overall marketing/media mix is increasingly gaining importance.


BTL is now moving from its earlier perception of basic activation to being an integral part of the consideration set at the media strategy formulation stage itself. FMCG for the mass audience spends even up to 25 percent of their advertising budget, luxury would spend more. Auto, telecom, food outlets also see the merits of BTL as we see more spends and ideas. It is getting very innovative using insights and planning; 3M Scotch-Brite came up with Wash your Bill, where you had the choice of washing dishes over paying the bill, adding a fun twist to the old adage of ‘pay your bill or wash the dishes’. The activation connected with a younger audience, made them use the product, gave immediate gratification, put it up on YouTube and created word-of mouth.


Lack of quality data is a major challenge that BTL faces as there are as yet no set parameters for evaluation. Another challenge is the infrastructure and operational co-ordination required from global and nationalized brands of mass appeal where delivery to target audience becomes an issue. For example even Pepsi in its ‘Open Happiness’ campaign could create the reach because of the use of digital and social, else the cost would go out of hand. BTL activation for a mass brand would require innovative use of the media mix to get the desired effect.


Ambika Sharma, MD & CEO, Pulp Strategy Communications

There is a definitive shift in perception, below-the-line is media that barrier is fading, it is new media which adds the rich creamy layer to the traditional media plan. Inclusion of BTL in a plan has increased steadily but has seen a stronger spike in the last 2-3 years. It is not in the perfect place that it could be in the consideration set but it is no longer ignored like it used to be a decade ago.


BTL is now increasingly being evaluated and included when developing the mix, for the simple reason that it cannot be ignored, as it is the only media that allows people to experience the product outside of the retail format. Below-the-line activations can be great when done cleverly. The medium provides the freedom to engage with your core consumers and almost always has the potential if designed wisely to be quirky and attention-grabbing.


BTL needs to be carefully considered in the planning process and not as an after thought. A well-thought-out, through-the-line campaign (or 360-degree approach), will always have more impact than one curtailed to a limited approach. This is perhaps the most positive change where in some marketers are consciously choosing BTL within their plan with specific deliverables in mind. This way the plan is tighter knit, and the ROI is richer. This change has reflected in a higher share of voice for activation in the media budget.


Other factors have also contributed, one is what we call the “Ego” slice in the media plan, prominent some time back its the forced fit into the prominent / upmarket ATL mediums because “presence there was a must” at times this ate into the working budget which would have been considered for new media including activation. This is no longer the case. Activation / BTL is holding its own in media plans and gaining its due in media budgets.


Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice President - Marketing, United Breweries Ltd

We do not call it BTL, but refer to it as activation or leveraging. I would say that activation has always been an important part in the UB Group’s marketing intervention. And today it is almost equal to our sponsorship amount. So if we are involved with an event, property or platform, and suppose Rs 50 lakhs as sponsor, we will spend an equal amount in leveraging it or BTL. I would say, it is practically 1:1 for UBL and our portfolio of brands when it comes to the ad pie division of BTL with other media.


I think a lot of things are happening apart from the display being used in this medium. The kind of consumer touchpoints being used, digital and social media is becoming a big thing and is being used increasingly as activation by us. Video mapping, production technologies have improved a lot. There are new techniques we are using from overseas in terms of projections, holograms, video mapping on walls etc. the ways to reaching out to consumer is getting innovative whether it be direct mailers that we do or CRM or get-togethers. The kind of media being used in activations is seeing innovation and substance that is being used in production is getting innovative.


This medium faces challenges in terms of credibility and execution capability. Anything that you do in BTL needs to be relevant to your product, your target audience and to your brands’ positioning. A large part of differentiation in BTL goes towards execution.


Raghu B Viswanath, Founder & Managing Director at Vertebrand Management Consulting

Media today is fraught with many challenges. While the overall ADEX spends has been growing at a much higher rate than GDP increasingly clients are questioning whether they are getting enough bang for buck they have spent by advertising in media.


Earlier brands focused on getting more eyeballs translating to more awareness on the brand. Since the competition intensity was earlier relatively low mere awareness got translated to purchase. That is not the case today. With increasing competition and very little differentiation, it is important for brands to not just enhance the brand – building efforts on awareness creation, but to go beyond and engage their customers meaningfully. This in turn means that brands need to connect with their customers through as many touch points as possible. So, non-traditional (BTL) lends itself to this two-way communication. The rules of the game is not about seeing or hearing. It is about experiencing the brand with all the senses. Hence, touch feel and other sensorial connects with the brand, is the need of the hour.


For many brands, BTL is becoming a more significant component of their marketing spends (almost equal to ATL). I believe this trend is expected to grow, as brands pursue serious efforts to engage better with their customers.


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One response to “MxM Monday: Is BTL gaining acceptance as a must-have in a media plan?”

  1. sanjay says:

    please define exactly what BTL comprise

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