Whose Line Is It Anyway?

In the business of advertising and marketing, acronyms and jargons are created with fervor second to none. Among them ATL (Above The Line) and BTL (Below The Line) are the privileged few that have found its way into the vocabularies of countless marketing folks. For what simply is ‘communications’, something that’s intrinsic to human nature, these terms have been discussed to complex proportions, careers built on either sides and specialty silos set up to milk the marketing dollar… helping elevate ATL and BTL to legendary status.

For starters, there is a misconception around their roles.

  • ATL is believed to be largely emotional communications while BTL thrives on rational messaging that leads to behaviour change.

  • ATL strategies generally build a foundation for long-term brand building while BTL communication strategies are formulated with the objective of short-term returns. The reasons could vary from customer acquisition or retention, generating interest in slow-moving products or even to popularize an incentive to induce trial or purchase.

  • ATL is a ‘mind and soul thing’ that weaves lovely images while BTL is a ‘feet thing’ that must make the sale happen.

So, why not do the ‘whole body thing’ here? Well, in keeping with the times, shouldn’t the brand need holistic healing too? Leads one to the question – What’s the fate of this proverbial line in today’s context?

It’s time for consolidation. Call it ‘brothers in arms’ or the coming together of the ATL and BTL brethren. Advertising and its many extensions is one way to look at it. Not incompatible silos anymore but complementary disciplines that function together for the common good.

The line has blurred. For the terrain is changing. Today, a marketing problem needs a communication solution, not an advertising solution. Gone are the days of one campaign running through all media. It’s time to embrace different technologies, mix various media and create an integrated campaign. That’s where the opportunity lies. And think about it, challenges and thrills as well.

What about ideas then? Ideas know no line, above or below. The big idea has only gotten bigger; what with it needing to come alive in more ways than it has ever done before. This big idea takes avatars for each medium it lives in, smartly adapting its flavour to suit every touch point. Getting consumers to raise their hands, helping them experience the brand.

That said, brand activations are finding increasing advocates by the day. And night. After all, it’s about the brand’s date with its prospective consumers… at the latter’s choice of place and time. No ego at play here; just an honest desire to get tried or experienced. Start a dialogue and have an interesting engagement with consumers. If the going was good, they’ll remember the interaction, reflecting in a change of behaviour towards the brand and keeping competing brands at bay for a long time.

Technology has added more than its two gigabits to the proverbial L (Yes, the same one in ATL and BTL). The integration of digital has meant that all communications need to be emotively charged to succeed. Moving sound and image – the best drivers of emotional response and brand likeability – no longer reside solely with ATL agencies but in all creative agencies irrespective of their discipline. In addition, technology is converging and helping media to converge. That means creating communications for print and for various screens – TV, Internet and mobile.

Generating interactivity is a hygiene that must be religiously practiced. Allowing consumers to control conversations will lead to more meaningful engagements. Co-creation is the name of the game. It takes a good mind to get the consumer to co-create with the brand; a fascinating collaboration that’s an insurance of loyalty.

Back to the line then! Try walking on it, similar to doing a tightrope walk. What would the experience be like? The action is way below while above is only sky. Is that how one would want to look at brand communications? Now, step off the line, stand on terra firma and record observations. In the thick of action among a milieu of consumers, here’s where the world lies. In getting to know them, understanding them, and providing them what they seek. Is that ATL or BTL?

Just brings into sharp focus the melting away of the line in ATL and BTL. TTL (Through The Line)? Let’s face it, there is no L. So, it’s TT!

TT, a fascinating game played between the client and the agency. Live problems being addressed, countered by live solutions, back and forth discussions and then implementation by one followed by feedback on results from the other. Somebody won the point? It doesn’t matter, the relationship won. That’s best for the game.

Remember, in today’s times, it’s the coin that counts; the head or tail doesn’t matter. So, live happily ever after. Together!

Rajiv R. Menon

Shriram Life : Happiness Ka Road Map

Shriram Life in partnership with Sanlam Life (South Africa’s largest insurance player) was a late entrant into the Indian life insurance market in 2009. The brand and its offerings naturally, had to be uniquely positioned.

There’s more to insurance than simply securing the future, a cliched oft-repeated brand positioning. Life is a journey with several milestones along the way. Shriram Life ensures happiness at every step along the way.

HAPPINESS KA ROAD MAP (Road map of happiness) is an insightful idea that brings Shriram Life’s offering alive in more ways than one.

The campaign’s illustrative rendering made customers feel easy and comfortable to approach this new brand as compared to competition that took a too ‘serious’ view of life insurance.

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The plans :

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The Happiness Ka Road Map campaign gave the Indian life insurance industry’s newest player Shriram Life the attention and sales it wanted, and also gave us at the agency Gold at the Abbys in the Digital category.

Client: Shriram Life
Agency : 141 Sercon

1010 : Launch Of A Digital Wonderland

In 2007, when we at 141 Sercon decided to start a digital agency, we knew that clients would more than welcome the idea while my creative team would lick their lips at the opportunity to unleash goodies. Yes, that’s exactly what happened and the cherry on the fun cake was that our website won at the India Digital Media awards.

Company name : I named this new company 1010. A numerical name as it belonged to the 141 Sercon family and the fact that the name had the essential binary digits that are the DNA of anything that exists in the digital space. This elemental name 1010 reflected the simplicity of our approach and the edginess we wanted for our digital work to possess. From the fancy company name to its zany website, was a task me and my team thoroughly enjoyed living through.

Website ideaTHE WONDERLAND. A beautiful world that we at 1010 called our digital space. It had the madness, thrills, fun and interactivity that we believed digital communications had. You could control the website at the pace you wanted, which was testimony to the freedom this space allowed users to have and play with. Of course, there was also a Real World option for those clients who were less courageous in their marketing approach.

The website starts in our present world and when you click on the rabbit, the journey begins. The rabbit leaps into a burrow and drops you all the way into the magical Wonderland of 1010. Here you not only discover what 1010 delivers but also meet the various animals who represent each department.

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After hours, unwind at The Mad Beer Party. Dance to new versions of old rhymes whose meanings reflect 1010’s approach to various aspects of digital communication.

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From naming to designing to copywriting and singing, 1010 was a Wonderland for me as well!

Client : 1010 (Self)
Agency : 141 Sercon

Tuborg :

Tuborg beer has a tagline that the brand lives by everyday, more so at nights – The fun starts here.

To popularise experimenting with Tuborg beer mixes, we created a property FUN-DA-MIX that was designed to ignite the party scene. It was a competition by the guys who know how to get the best in a mix – DJs. Fundamix is the fuel that ignites every DJs passion for experimenting and their fans to savour.

This was an online engagement platform where DJs could share their music with a larger world and create waves by sharing their their best mixes. Winners were selected by public voting.





Client : Carlsberg Group
Agency : 141 Sercon

Tata Sky : Play The Sports Package

To have a viewing experience like never before with Tata Sky’s Sports Package, it was important to engage the prospect and encourage him to play a game.


The prospect has to tap on a soccer ball as it moves from left to right on his screen (smartphone/tablet) to score the maximum number of goals he can in 15 seconds.

As soon as he finishes the game, he gets his score and is invited to know more about all the different packages Tata Sky has, starting with the Sports package.




Client : InMobi
Agency : Phenomenon Brand Architects

Marico Saffola : Keeping Your Heart Young

How do you tackle a serious issue of avoiding heart disease in an interesting, light-hearted manner that also drives the message home?


Evade unhealthy food items falling from the top by shifting the hand holding the heart on the page.


After 30 seconds, the user learns about saving his heart from unhealthy living with the help of Saffola.


Also, ‘Know your Heart’s True Age’ encourages the user to know more about his heart by tapping on the Heart Age finder icon.

Client : InMobi
Agency : Phenomenon Brand Architects

Titan Orion Watch : Your Stars

The objective was to arouse interest in Titan’s new watch Orion.


A simple ‘join the dots’ activity connects stars in the night sky. When one finishes the connection, you realize that the constellation is Orion. This leads to introducing Titan’s new watch Orion in an engaging manner.

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Titan Orion2

Client : InMobi
Agency : Phenomenon Brand Architects

Haywards 5000 Beer : For Men

In a competitive beer market, here’s a fun demonstration of a strong beer.


When you take a chilled bottle of Haywards 5000 across the faces of young men, they sprout facial hair in interesting ways.



Twitter, Facebook handles allow for unabashed sharing.

Client : InMobi
Agency : Phenomenon Brand Architects

Aegon Religare Life Insurance : Get Full Cover

How do you demonstrate to anybody that they have inadequate insurance cover? This challenge got magnified when I was mandated to bring the brand’s advertising slogan Kum Insurance Leneki Bimari (Taking less insurance is a disease) to life in a memorable manner.


The objective is to move a small umbrella around to help a guy stay dry. A perfect analogy of ‘Kum Insurance Leneki Bimari’.


A man is standing in the rain with a child-sized umbrella. You have to prevent him from getting wet.

The rain falls from above and slants in from the sides as well.


As he gets wetter, his shirt changes colour.

Once his shirt is soaked, the game stops and the user is asked the question.


Client : InMobi
Agency : Phenomenon Brand Architects