Direct Marketing

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

Daks, London : Invitation On A Hanger

An elite English men’s suitings brand – Daks, London – warranted a promotion that was special and personalised.

With a pair of branded gold-plated cufflinks on offer, HNIs were invited to visit the exclusive Daks showroom in Mumbai and experience the celebrated premium suitings and accessories for themselves.

Needless to say, the personal ‘INVITATION PACK ON A HANGER’ was as warm and distinguished as English twill.

As tartan checks was Daks’ signature design, an exclusive loyalty club CHECKMATES was proposed.



Client : Daks, London
Agency : Lintas Direct

Tata AIG General : Joys Of A Second Childhood

Direct Response advertising often has the offer said upfront.

But when the communication for a Personal Injury policy, MahaRaksha has an insight-driven idea, THE JOYS OF A SECOND CHILDHOOD and is targeted at settled children of old parents, the inherent drama makes for compelling messaging that tells the story with a smile.

Complementing this idea further was the offer of a Holiday for both old parents at Disneyland, Hongkong.

This ill-fated campaign (much appreciated but stalled by the client’s Asia offices) was conceived 2 years before a competing brand released a full-fledged campaign on this similar idea.

Picture 3

Client : Tata AIG General Insurance
Agency : Bates 141

Taj Group Of Hotels : Kathmandu Mask

Luxurious Hotel de l’Annapurna in Kathmandu, capital of the ancient kingdom of Nepal, is an ideal vacation destination.

A mailer that evoked the spirit of this holiday had an interesting cover – AN EXOTIC MASK!

Impatient recipients could momentarily slip into the past by detaching the mask, slipping a rubberband between the earlobes and by wearing a new face!

(regret image quality of this earlier work)


Client : Taj Group of Hotels
Agency : Corvo Draft Worldwide

Tata Indicom : From Nowhere to Know Where

A few years ago, Tata Indicom introduced an advanced AGPS tracking system – Quickfinder-i – for the first time in India. Powered by Tata Teleservices’ superior CDMA technology, customers could now track their vehicles or assets even while they were parked indoors or in a remote location.

To illustrate the advantages of Quickfinder-i and its real-time tracking benefits to corporates, fleet owners etc, we designed a simple direct mail pack that says it all.


A needle was placed in a pile of hay. The target person can easily locate the needle in a trice by using the Quickfinder-i bar (it’s a magnet) thereby illustrating the key benefit of this tracking system in an experiential manner.

The outer box envelope :


The open box : It’s time to find a more pleasant definition of the word ‘find’.

A brochure on Quickfinder-i and how it benefits various businesses accompanied the box.

Client : Tata Teleservices
Agency : 141 Sercon

WNS : Unique Self-promotion

WNS, a comprehensive backend support service provider to organizations, wanted to promote its range of business process outsourcing services amongst premier insurance organisations in the US and UK. It wanted to highlight its deep domain expertise.


A lamp was sent to prospective customers along with a brochure and other documents detailing the services provided. As WNS provides backend support to its customers, it’s reassuring presence can seldom be seen, but sure makes an impact. Much like what the lamp reveals when switched on wherein the supporting columns of the bridge are now seen!

The lamp employs a pretty simple, yet ingenious technique. The image (bridge and its supports) is printed in two parts.

1. The impossibly long bridge suspended in mid air – This part of the image is printed on the outside.
2. The supporting pillars – These are printed on the inside.

When the lamp is not lit, only the outer image (bridge) is seen.


It’s only when you switch on the lamp that the inner image (supports) become visible, giving a visual demonstration of the role played by WNS.


Client : WNS
Agency : 141 Sercon

Hippos : Creating An Award For Medical Excellence

(This is an idea that didn’t see the light of day, but I like it. So plucked it right out of my Mac and pasted the design layouts here.)

As India’s #1 magazine for the healthcare industry, Modern Medicare wanted to create Medical Excellence Awards to honour the best practitioners in the medical fraternity.

1. First the naming of the awards: HIPPOS. A trendy downsizing of the father of medicine Hippocrates’ name in keeping with the times.

2. Designed the trophy.


3. Designed a unique direct mail pack for doctors in which the letter introducing the new awards was on an X-ray film.


4. The official invite, again on an X-ray film.


Client : Modern Medicare
Agency : 141 Sercon

Domex : My Clean World

Can a floor cleaner do more than just clean floors? Why not inculcate cleanliness as a way of life in young minds who are in the process of habit formations?

Almost 2 decades ago, Hindustan Unilever discovered to their amazement that MY CLEAN WORLD an innovative idea for a school contact programme would have lasting impact for their floor cleaning brand, Domex than any other conventional communication.

A set of My Picture Story Book and My Clean World chart were distributed to Class 2 children. The storybook stayed in class while the chart would be at home. This set would be different for Class 3 and another set for Class 4.

Weekly fun lessons – illustrated stories on various aspects of cleanliness – had to be completed by the child and supervised by the teacher. A month later on completion of a story, the child would detach the ‘moral of the story’ jigsaw piece and take it home to affix it onto his My Clean World chart. This chart-cum-calendar got completed at the end of 6 stories, much to the delight and pride of the parents and teachers who found their kids getting possessive of their clean world.

The brand’s constant presence at home and with parents watching their child’s involvement with its key benefit of cleanliness, brand goodwill felt so squeaky good!

My Picture Story Book used at school: (regret image quality of this earlier work)


The completed My Clean World chart at home: (regret image quality of this earlier work)


Client : Hindustan Unilever
Agency : Corvo Draft Worldwide

Tata AIG Life : Women’s Policy Gives Men A Shoebite

When Tata AIG wished to introduce an exclusive life policy for urban Indian women, the strategy was to target the man in her life and make him understand why she needs to be insured.

The idea was very simple – GIVE HER MAN A REALITY KICK. Something impactful that brochures and leaflets couldn’t do.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.27.35 PM

Client : Tata AIG
Agency : 141 Sercon