What is the difference between Advertising and Marketing?

This is the most common question that student have when they first consider a job in either industry. The problem is, people feel silly to ask it at AdSoc events because, as one of the partners in the agency I currently work told me last week, ‘young people are afraid to show what they don’t know – this is a mistake because it means they don’t ask questions and so don’t learn’.

Here is my best brief answer. Advertising is just one of the many tools that marketers use to drive sales of their product or service. There are many more tools in the tool box, for example Public Relations – PR- (someone else telling you the product or service is worth buying on behalf of the marketer) or product pricing (3 for 1 Pringles in Tesco) etc.

People generally overestimate the role of advertising in the marketing mix because it is the least conspicuous. Being inconspicuous is, after all, its primary aim as it is a prerequisite for communicating it’s message.

It is important to point out that the various marketing tools are not easily distinguished. Marketing agencies are doing their best to avoid this as no client wants an agency of narrow scope. This is what they mean when they say they are ‘integrated’ agencies.

To recap, if Mr McGreggor grows some vegetables and he employs Gill to flog it, she is the marketer. Everything she does to achieve this task is marketing, but not all is advertising. When she tells Bill about the veg and he tells everyone else at the village fete, that is great Public Relations (PR). When she is asked for cooking tips from Granny Mary, that is customer support. When she puts up a sign that reads ‘Mr McGreggor’s home grown carrots’, that is a piece of advertising.

I found that harder than I expected to explain, so here is one stolen off about.com:

There are many technical and complicated definitions of both advertising and marketing and the differences between them. But it can be stated rather simply:

  • Advertising tells a story about something to attract attention. Advertising is a step in the marketing process.
  • In business, “marketing” is the planning of, and steps taken, to bring merchants and consumers together.

Now you can rightly point out that AdSoc should technically be called MarkSoc as we cover much more than just advertising.