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What does "Below the Line" and "Above the Line" mean?

Updated: May 6, 2021

"Above the line" and "below the line" are advertising terms used to describe where the advert or media will be deployed, or in my case, where the photography will be used.

Above The Line (ATL)

Above the line or "ATL" as it's sometimes referred to, is media for a much wider targeted audience.

So things like television or radio (not really relevant to stills photography), or billboards and large screen digital displays like the ones you see as you drive into London.

Above the Line is for those advertisement campaigns that are for a much wider spectrum of people.

So things like an automotive, phone, or a food company will appeal to a much wider audience than say a company selling IT Servers, or industrial carpet cleaners.

So Above the Line (ATL), is for a very wide audience of people for things that will appeal to almost everyone.

Below The Line (BTL)

Below the line, or "BTL", is therefore advertising targeted to a much more niche group of people.

So think of things like targeted social media adverts, where you can show your ad only to people who have an interest in a specific product or service.

Things like a company website, direct email marketing campaigns, industry brochures etc.

Below the line usage is for more targeted consumers, where you don't need everyone to see the advert, just the more niche group of people who will purchase whatever it is you're selling.

So things like memory cards for cameras, fitness supplements, a luxury watch brand.

Which does your photography work fall under?

Most of my commercial, advertising, or lifestyle photography work falls under "below the line" usage, as it's mostly for company websites, social media campaigns, or more targeted consumers or brands.

However there have been a few brands that were more generic which campaigns fell under "above the line" usage and that have been on the large digital billboards around London and the South of England.

Are there cost implications for Below the Line versus Above the Line usage?

In simple yes. Below the line is cheaper than above the line.

The AOP (Association of Photographers) has a usage calculator which is a good stating point on how to understand the costs.

Have a play with the calculator and see what it comes up with for your project and requirements. It's not a number set in stone, but will give you an idea on what an advertising agency or advertising photographer would charge for different types of usage.

Would you like to work with me?

If you'd like to work with me, then take a look at my website where you'll see the work I typically do:

Or if you'd like to get in touch now then CLICK HERE to go to my contact page.


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