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What's the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising?

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Advertising Vs Marketing graphic

Posted on 03/11/2020 at 08:00 AM

Marketing V. Advertising

Insights from the Global Reach Team

The Question: I'm doing research for a blog and hoping you can help. Without Googling it, in your opinion, what is the difference between Marketing and Advertising?”

Our digital marketing team lives and breathes marketing every day. Some of us truly believe that if you check our DNA, you’ll find vast quantities of various marketing data points and strategies throughout.

As Marketers, we analyze, we strategize, we prioritize. Ads play an integral role in that process. Part of our process includes doing everything in our power to understand the perspective of our clients, their audience, and what we can do to reach them.

Marketing spans many specialties, avenues, and platforms and we are proud to have many specialists on staff to aid our clients in any digital marketing they may need. The author of this post, for example, specializes in digital marketing strategy.

The Origin of the Question

Recently, a no-nonsense client asked me what I do.

“I’m a Digital Marketer,” I said.

“What, exactly, does that mean? What do you actually do?” The client asked.

I tried to explain that I analyze audience and keyword data, plan social media strategy, edit content, do search engine optimization through copywriting, create Google Ads, ad groups, and social media ads. I take meetings and draft proposals; I analyze websites and various social platforms for optimization opportunities… I am a jack-of-all-digital-marketing trades but master of none (and that is not a bad thing. More on that later).

“Basically,” I said, “You could say that I am an attention broker.”

“Ok, but how does that differ from an advertiser?” The inquisitive client asked.

“Well…” I started, “that’s a great  question...”

Then it dawned on me. I live in a universe of marketing. I dream it, daydream it, podcast it, research it, blog it, and am addicted to it. Others don’t feel the same way. Those not in my world can't see it the way I do.

The Research and the Pie

Like any good marketer, I wanted to explore the topic further. I thought I might see what others who I work with and respect had to say about it. Those who don’t live in my Marketing bubble. To be a great marketer, you must think like people who aren’t. Sure, I have my definitions and differences, but I wanted to understand the views of others.

I am fortunate enough to work with experts with many specialties, so I thought I would pick their brains and see how they see the differences.

First, I asked Aarik Evanson. Aarik was one of my first mentors at Global Reach and is our resident Business Development Overlord. Like many of us, he is a wearer of many hats. He heads the Design team, does some project management, handles sales, works directly with clients and much more.

“Advertising is a part of marketing. A piece of the pie, so to speak. Marketing could include advertising but could also be much more.  Advertising a product might be 70-80% of the marketing budget but it’s hard to say. It really depends on the product, maybe guerilla style marketing is a better option than traditional advertising?” - Aarik Evanson, Business Development

He’s not wrong, but honestly, there really is no wrong answer. I'd later come to realize that many people felt similar. To get a deeper idea of how a project manager’s mind works, I turned to one of our newest project managers, John Knapp. John has experience in social media marketing and currently does project management with Global Reach.

“Off the top of my head, when I think of Marketing I think of the How. How will a message, product, or service reach an audience? I think Advertising is more of a Who and What question. What is the demographic you are trying to reach? Who will respond to a specific type of advertisement?”- John Knapp, Project Manager

John leaned more towards the analytics side of marketing- understanding the audience’s demographics and psychographics. Then he brought up another great point about targeting and various types of marketing (traditional versus digital):

“…I can see how they could flip. I come from a background where I was on the Digital Marketing side of a company and there was a traditional Print Marketing side as well, so I was looking at it as departments within a company. Once a channel is chosen then the advertisement is selected which should ideally target a specific demographic.”- John Knapp

John’s views of Marketing and advertising really made me think. It felt like the beginning of an interesting conversation (one I'm sure will likely inspire a future blog or podcast). There are many sides to marketing- subsets and specialties within marketing- each a piece of a much larger puzzle. 

Another brilliantly deep thinker and Project Manager, Austin always provides great feedback with depth and consideration. I've noticed that he handles his clients with a unique sincerity, consideration, and respect. His answer was similar to Aarik's:

“I would say advertising is a small aspect of marketing, that focuses mostly on brand recognition & awareness. Marketing includes a lot of different things, but in general it consists of providing a product/service to the customer when, where, and how they need it. It is important to consider who your audience is, why they should buy your product, and how it will benefit them.” - Austin Shaffer, Project Manager

I’ve often said that a product or service's feature tells, the benefit sells. People want to understand what is in it for them, but to do that you have to understand how to get the message in front of your target consumers. Understanding your product or service and how it may be beneficial is key to selling, but understanding your audience and their needs are the key to marketing. Understanding the audience seemed to be a repeating theme.

The Marketing Vehicle

We recently added another member to the Project Management team who has experience working at a university. Eleni Achrazoqlou is familiar with academics and marketing, so I was curious about what she had to say.

“I think that all advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Marketing covers much more - pricing, customer segmentation and targeting, analytics, consumer behavior, new product feasibility, and many other aspects of product success. I see advertising as being more obviously visible to consumers while marketing often flies under their radar.” - Eleni Achrazoqlou, Project Manager

Her analysis made me think of an interesting analogy. Advertising is the external appearance of a high-performance vehicle. It’s the thing that looks cool and makes you want to get in the driver’s seat. Marketing is the engine and all the mechanisms that you don’t see. The driving force behind the outward appearance.

I work with a brilliant designer. Taylor Tieden is responsible for all the graphics you see with these blog posts and on our social media platforms. Surely, a graphic designer would have an interesting take.

“Well I think that marketing is like the brains behind advertising… like advertising is the baby of marketing” - Taylor Tieden, Graphic Designer

Now that would make an interesting graphic. Perhaps I’ll ask her to create such a graphic for this article. It is always interesting to get insight into the thoughts of those around you. You can learn a lot about a person from the simplest of statements. Taylor’s answer was creative, just like she is. Another very creative person on our staff who also has a keen eye is a member of the digital marketing team, Grace Lee.

Grace has a degree in advertising and has found a niche in the data side of strategy. Her day-to-day at Global Reach tends to blur the lines between the worlds of marketing and advertising as she often is involved with paid media and search engine marketing such as Google Ads and Google Analytics. This daily dance came through in her answer:

"I think this matter very simple, if marketing is planning, advertising is more of an action that goes with any kind of plan." - Grace Lee, Digital Marketing Consultant

Creative Vs. Strategy

Managers will tell you that something can be as visually appealing as you want, but does it work? There has to be a strategy. I wanted to know if one of our foremost strategists in operations felt the same way. I reached out to Michael Leontiou, our Operations Manager for his view.

“If I remember correctly from my Marketing course when I was doing my MBA, I would say that Marketing involves the 4 Ps (Price, Product, Promotion and Place). In essence, Advertising/Promotion is part of Marketing. In short, Marketing is much bigger than Advertising.” - Michael Leontiou, Operations Manager

Michael seemed to lean on the operations and logistics side of marketing. Considering his role with the company, this came as no surprise.

So far, most of the brilliant minds that I work with had seemed to look at marketing in a very similar way. They believe that marketing is an overall practice and advertising is a tool.

The Marketer, The Hippie, and the Scientist

There were three more people I wanted to get thoughts from before fully evaluating the feedback. The first was Josie Juber. Josie is our resident social media content writer and scheduler. She evaluates social media, works closely with our clients to understand their unique voice, then creates custom social media scheduled posts.

“I would say marketing is more finding a way to make a lasting impression on customers that you want to keep around. Making that actual connection with your customers. Advertising is more - hey look what we have to offer, not making that personal connection.” - Josie Juber, Digital Marketing Consultant (The Marketer)

Marketing as a psychological tool to connect with your audience in a personal way? Sure, sounds about right. This is a very “new-school” way of looking at marketing. Many would say the “right way”.

Global Reach is a global company in that we have both clients and offices around the world, our staff is multi-cultural, and many of us enjoy traveling around the globe. It’s part of our culture, and something we’re quite proud of. One of our team members, our Office Administrator, Audra, recently returned to the states from a vacation in Vietnam.

“Marketing is an overreaching plan. Advertising can be part of that plan. It's possible to market something without advertising through packaging, paying a store to put the item at eye level, getting a sports team to use it, getting a movie to place the product in a strategic place."


"In the US everything is marketed in subtle ways at pretty much all times. This is something that I notice every time I travel to other countries that aren't quite as consumeristic. Advertising, to me, is something more specific. An ad that is paid for during the Super Bowl, an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. One of those insidious pop up advertisements online that make me make a mental note to NEVER buy that product.” - Audra Hartwigsen, Office Administrator (The Self-Proclaimed Hippie)

Audra (by her own admission) takes an almost anti-advertising approach. She also acknowledges that advertising can be more subtle, such as in packaging rather than paid ads. Perhaps this is more effective. It all comes back to unique approaches for each product, service, and your target audience. Some methods speak more clearly to people than others. This is yet another example of why Marketers say that marketing, like science, is a practice.

The final person I wanted to hear from was Taylor Wolf. Taylor has experience in consulting, project management, sales, marketing, and advertising.

“Marketing is the science of determining product demand based on many socioeconomic, demographic, and geographic variables as well as how to increase that demand.

Advertising is based on the data and direction marketing has provided. Advertising is communicating product/service value to a selected market.” -Taylor Wolf, NOMA Project Manager (The Scientist)

Taylor’s definitions are the closest to my own. To me, marketing is the message. It consists of a combination of branding, understanding audience and demand, and research. Advertising is the delivery method of the message.

The process of digital marketing requires research, analysis, implementation, reporting, and modification. It is as infinite as space because of the ever-evolving nature of the digital space it operates in. A digital marketing strategy must be adaptable to survive.

It seems that understanding of marketing and advertising is subjective, even to digital marketers. We never stop learning and growing. There are no gurus or masters, only practitioners. Anyone who says they have mastered the science surely doesn’t understand the medium or nature of marketing. We do, however, have lots of expertise and insights to share. We see things differently, and that is a good thing!

If you need help with your digital marketing strategy or advertising, contact the specialists at Global Reach today for a free digital marketing audit!

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