The “line.” Marketers and their agencies have referred to the nebulous “line” for decades when referring to different types of spending. Some in the business define traditional advertising as “above the line” and other disciplines such as point of sale and direct marketing “below the line.” Others differentiate based on scope (mass vs. niche focused) or purpose (long term awareness vs. short term incentive). But given the complexity and integration of marketing support, the lines are quickly blurring. It’s time to bury the line and use a new approach.
The history of “the line” goes back to the Mad Men days of the 1950’s when Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s biggest advertisers then and now, defined “the line” from an accounting standpoint to differentiate between media that earned commissions for agencies (above the line) to those that didn’t (below the line). Since then as payment models have changed and marketing has become hyper-integrated across vehicles and media types, there is no common agreement on where “the line” is. On top of that, there has developed a sort of “second class” psychological standing for all things “below the line.” However, that has drastically changed with the new way of looking at “the line.” It’s called brand activation and it’s causing advertisers to reassess and reevaluate their approach to marketing.
Brand activation -- marketing that both builds a brand’s image and drives a specific consumer behavior or action -- focuses on six disciplines that help bring a brand to life through interacting with the consumer. These disciplines -- promotion, content, influencer, experiential, relationship/loyalty and retailer/shopper marketing -- cover most marketing activities other than advertising and trade promotion, regardless of which side of the “the line” they appear on.
In a recent, first-of-its-kind forecast of brand activation expenditures conducted by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) in collaboration with and licensed from PQ Media, the data reinforced the importance of brand activation within the total marketing universe. Total spending across 21 industry verticals came in at $600 billion, representing 60 percent of the total $1 trillion marketing ecosystem and nearly twice the size of advertising spending. And it’s growing at a faster rate.
A number of factors help explain why marketers are spending more in brand activation. They include:
The ANA has buried “the line,” so please join us in celebrating the birth, power and importance of brand activation. The future looks strong, and as technology changes and brands need more ways to help them grow, brand activation will continue to grow in importance. It’s an exciting time to be working in this space, and happy that we’re no longer constrained by “the line.” Rest in peace.
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