A creative head with a fantastic body of work to his name and I had this telephonic conversation one rainy morning. What followed was a turbulent exchange on what defines BTL. Apparently, the ‘industry understanding’ of BTL is different from the textbook definition of BTL. The latter, as I remembered from aeons ago, meant all things non-mass media. But I was made to realise that when one refers to BTL work, it is comprehended as ‘low value’ work – more specifically, in the zone of pamphlets, danglers, mall promotions and the like.
There are segments of the creative fraternity who aren’t too proud of being associated with BTL work. Even if the work is in the space of BTL, they would rather not call it by that name. The reason why people don’t own up, is perception. In reality there is very good below-the-line work that’s working in the market, done by mainstream ATL agencies and their many units.
BTL is an inevitable reality - one that agencies have to embrace and grow with. Proof exists in the form of ‘integrated solutions’ that owners of mass media are providing advertisers.
Another time and place, a couple of years ago, another creative head of an MNC agency, over a few rounds of Old Monk, was delving into the new wave of digital. He wanted to know if agencies were still thinking film as the lead idea. Or, if they were consciously ideating differently, keeping the whole digital ecosystem and interactivity it allows in mind. Going by one characteristic of BTL, which is that it allows for individual targeting, digital qualifies - and confuses because it is also a mass medium. No form of activism is complete today without digital, unless it is in a fully internet-dark area. Tahrir Square, among others, was proof.
Digital is a social reality, one that defies definition on whether it’s BTL or ATL. And it is definitely not a four-letter word.
The Olympic Games 2012 are about to get underway (it’s another thing that there’s more buzz on the Indian cricket team leading SriLanka 1-0 in the one dayers as I write this).
The Olympic Games is, at the end of the day, a huge televised event. And the London Olympics have been billed as the ‘first social’ Olympics. Brands like Visa, associated with the Games for the last 25 years as sponsor, testify that mere mass media will not suffice. Integration of an idea into every possible touch point alone can allow meaningful leverage of spends on properties, whether they are Olympic-sized or smaller. Elsewhere in this issue of Campaign India, Sanjay Tripathy of HDFC Life cites how the brand has leveraged its association with IPL team Rajasthan Royals as sponsor, for the last four years.
According to him, every BTL campaign - or experiential work - has to be a 360-degree idea. I love ad films. The magically emotive quality of film – that moving combination of visuals and images – is priceless. But if you were moved by a song from a movie, chances are that when the song is performed live and you’re in the audience, you will cry.
Why must we believe that ATL or BTL advertising will work any differently on consumers? And why is one cool and the other not-so-cool? Check out Dodge’s ‘Baby Made on Board’ campaign.
Agencies would do well to make love, not war, with BTL, especially in the current market scenario.
The idea remains the only reality.
Gokul Krishnamurthy, editor, Campaign India