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Advertising vs marketing: What is the difference?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Knowing the difference between advertising and marketing is crucial when planning creative strategies and setting business goals. When we hear these two phrases, they are often used interchangeably but have a variety of differences. Once you can disguise the two, your projects will become much more accurate and effective, working in line with the business and consumer needs.

What is marketing?

Marketing is a very diverse process. Made up of ongoing strategies that ensure products and services are meeting the demands of the marketplace and buyers, marketing is also focused on retaining these results.

The marketing journey typically begins with attracting your target audience and making your brand known online and offline. This could be through the use of an online website, social media, search engine optimisation or branding. The strategies will then work to turn those audiences into buyers and provide after-sales support.

What is advertising?

Typically considered a subset of marketing, advertising includes strategies such as paid ads, social ads, search ads and any other advertising option that supports marketing goals. Although organic social media is considered advertising, the traditional definition revolves around paying for the ad placement, whether that be on Instagram, YouTube or an article.

Advertising is used to build brand image, promote products and services or to promote sales and offers. Although this sounds similar to marketing, these efforts act as a support for the existing systems and add an extra boost when finding and retaining customers.

The difference between advertising and marketing?


Marketing aims to boost a business’s visibility and desirability amongst customers using methods such as branding, trend analysis, competitor research, customer relationship management, market research, strategy development and budgeting. Advertising on the flip side includes responsibilities such as customer analysis, pitching AD strategies, purchased media, creative productivity and communication with stakeholders.


Common marketing techniques

  • Inbound marketing using organic strategies
  • Content marketing using landing pages, blogs and long-form content, social media, video production and print
  • SEO to increase Google ranking and visibility
  • Email marketing, promotions and newsletters
  • Affiliate marketing and communication

Common advertising techniques

  • Traditional advertising such as print, TV and radio advertising
  • Retail advertising and in-store promotions
  • Digital advertising through social media ads, video marketing, content syndication and guest posting
  • Promoting ads within web pages
  • Billboards and public advertising
  • Mobile ads


Besides organic social media advertising, most advertising solutions require a budget and financial investment.

The cost involved in advertising can depend greatly on who you’re collaborating with, what type of content you’re looking for, the media type and the contract. Because marketing activities include strategies including branding, research and content creation, marketing costs will cover systems, departments, tools and processes that assist in the process.

Generating results

In terms of the outcome of these strategies, advertising and marketing are different in terms of the rate they generate results. Advertising strategies typically produce faster results whereas marketing is a long-term, ongoing effort that helps to build a brand.

Metrics to measure

Success metrics for both marketing and advertising that should be tracked, monitored, and optimised:

Marketing metrics

  • Net promoter score
  • Customer retention
  • Lifetime value
  • Quarterly and annual sales revenue
  • Market share

Advertising metrics

  • ROAS ( return on ad spend )
  • Reach and impressions
  • CTR
  • Engagement
  • Conversion rates

Digital marketing services for businesses across the UK

Whether you’re in search of content, web design, or any other form of digital marketing, Imaginaire can help your business get to where it needs to be.

Our team is based in Nottingham, and we work on projects across the UK, creating new and effective digital marketing solutions that increase sales and attract more traffic. So if we’re yet to meet your business, an introduction is only a call or a click away!

To let us know how we can help your business succeed online please drop us a message, or give us a call on 0115 697 1367.

Annie is imaginaire's Digital Marketing Executive and covers topics such as social media, web design, SEO and content.

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