What's the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?


If you don’t know the difference, don’t feel bad, that’s one of the most common questions we get asked. For those who aren’t aware of how the two are distinct, they can almost seem interchangeable at times. As an advertising and marketing agency, we’d like to take the time and explain the difference between the two to you.


Advertising is a more literal process with the express goal of selling a product to the public through paid channels. Most of what you see in the form of commercials, billboards, or online ads are examples of advertising. Advertising is focused on the short-term success of a product or service with the intention of grabbing your attention. You might complain about TV or radio commercials being repetitive or obnoxious, but that’s the ultimate goal of them: to get you to pay attention to the product being advertised.


One of the most successful advertisements in American history was the Bud Light “Whassup” commercial, which can be summed up entirely in one simple sentence: a group of male friends all call each other and ask each other “whassup” while watching a game and drinking Bud Light. It’s not the not exactly high brown cinema, but it caught viewers’ attention and stayed there in addition to being universally well-received.


Marketing is a systematic approach that includes more abstract and critical thinking about what the customer wants or needs. Advertising is only worried about selling a product or service while marketing serves the role of defining its place in society while building (or maintaining) brand identity. Marketing requires a great deal of planning and implementation and is focused on the long-term success and viability of a campaign.


Going back to the Bud Light commercial, the “Whassup” ad didn’t reinvent the wheel with it’s writing or cinematography, but it did resonate with the American culture of late 1990’s and launched a catchphrase across the nation. Beyond that, by showing a complete understanding of their target audience down to how they interact with each other it sold the idea that Bud Light was the essential beer to drink while “hangin’ out, watchin’ the game”, which they supported with other advertisements outside of the “Whassup” campaign.


Now that you understand how the two are different, let’s look at how they work together.


Advertising works as a component within a marketing strategy that also includes other disciplines such as public relations, branding, social media management, sales, community engagement and customer support. Advertising is sometimes a standalone process, but it’s often part of a larger marketing plan that operates with specific goals in mind.


Think of it this way: advertising is a slice of pizza while marketing is the entire pizza. Just like how you eat a pizza one slice at a time, advertising is how you consume and engage in a marketing strategy.


So now that you know the difference between advertising and marketing, you can make much more informed decisions about what services you need to generate success for your brand or company.