Above-the-line advertising has been defined in different ways, but the most common depiction is that it encompasses traditional broadcast and print mass media, including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. While these traditional media still remain viable options for companies that need to reach primary target markets, below-the-line methods such as direct mail and social media have gained in prominence.


TV commercials aired on network or cable television are a common way to reach a lot of people with a creative message. While TV ads represent a major part of ad budgets for many companies, others have grown concerned with the high cost compared with tangible returns. Viewers who skip commercials by using digital video recorders or who are distracted by their mobile devices reduce the impact of television ad expenditures.


Radio advertising includes 15- to 60-second spot commercials typically purchased in packages and rotated over the course one or more months. Radio is an above-the-line approach that has been especially useful to local businesses, which account for about 80 percent of radio ad expenditures. Radio is more affordable than television and offers opportunities for frequency and repetition. However, inattentive listeners and the lack of visual stimulus can reduce effectiveness.


Newspapers are another affordable opportunity for small businesses. Many communities have newspapers that give local businesses a way to efficiently connect with people in the area. Regional and national publications, such as The New York Times, provide options for regional or national companies. Credibility is another benefit of mainstream newspapers because people associate the ads within news content as more believable than those in fictitious content, according to the Cengage textbook "Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion." Limited creative abilities, poor reproduction and a short shelf life are drawbacks of newspaper ads.


Magazines are a highly selective medium because there are so many available. While large mags like "US Weekly," "People" and "Time" reach millions of people, a number of other small magazines, like those in fitness, health and technology categories, appeal to smaller, more focused market segments. If you advertise products that interest niche magazine readers, your ads can have much more influence than they might in more general audience TV shows or newspapers, according to the Cengage textbook.

Below the Line

Below-the-line advertising refers to newer forms of interactive advertising that have become more common in the early 21st century. Direct marketing, email marketing loyalty programs, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and promotions targeted to specific customers are examples. These media allow for more measurable responses from customers and make it easier for companies to track the results of their advertising investment.