The great Don Schultz died a few days ago. Professor Schultz, who was 86 years old, spent more than 40 years teaching at Northwestern University’s Medill School. A big, affable presence at many marketing and advertising conferences, he always had time for junior academics and awed PhD students.
Behind the big smile, however, was an even bigger brain, and an ability to span the world of advertising and academia in a manner that still evades most marketing professors. Schultz had a singular impact on my career. To understand why, you have to travel back in time to the strange, precursory world we inhabited back in the late 1980s.
Until then, most advertising budgets had been split between two binary opposite options: above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL). The line in question was originally found in Procter & Gamble’s budgeting manual. Back in 1954, the consumer goods giant separated its communications investment according to the way it paid the bills. Agencies that took a commission from the media that P&G bought were above, while promotions and other activities that had no commission to pay were kept below.