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How Marketing and Advertising relate

Marketing and Advertising

The words Marketing and Advertising can be confused with one-another, and with good reason given the way in which they are sometimes interchangeably used. This is further complicated when the world of Public Relations (PR) is introduced. In this article, I look at the key differences between them, and how they inter-relate.
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Marketing is generally viewed as the over-arching activity that also encompasses Advertising and Public Relations, though those in Advertising or PR might take issue with this! In terms of objectives, skills, tools, measurement and cost, Marketing and Advertising are completely distinct from PR and require different mind-sets and approaches.

Simply put, Marketing is targeted at revenue generation employing a wide range of channels media, and messages in order to:

  • Build the awareness of your brand and its products and/ or services
  • Ensure that the customer has a degree of affinity with your brand, knowing and trusting it
  • Cultivate a position such that at the time of purchase, your brand and its product/ service is considered
  • To motivate the potential customer to make the decision to purchase your product
  • Marketing is generally more targeted than advertising, though as technology and data develops, the line is increasingly blurred

Key media and channels associated with marketing include:

  • Website
  • Certain digital activities
  • Newsletters
  • Brochures
  • Direct Mail


Advertising, as part of overall marketing, makes use of mass media that reach a large audience. Within this are included:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Print/ press
  • Cinema
  • Outdoor (billboards etc.)
  • Experiential

Even with intelligent, targeted media buying, there is a higher degree of wastage in advertising than can be achieved with true marketing. Wastage is the number of times your message is delivered to someone not interested in, or not eligible for, your product/ service.

The blurring of lines

Advertising has historically been less targeted than marketing, though as technology and data processing capabilities develop, the line is increasingly blurred. Traditionally un-targeted mass media are becoming more targeted:

  • Billboards being replaced with digital panels
  • TV advertising using subscriber data to hyper-target the viewer with messages
  • Radio stations encouraging online users to listen through logged-in apps which allow targeting

Will this line blur to the point at which there is no obvious distinction to be made? I think so. Let’s look at a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign, bidding on the term “car insurance”.

There are circa 20M motorists in the UK. They’re young and old, high risk and low risk, live in low risk areas and high risk areas, the cars vary from £500 bangers to £0.5M hyper-cars. The list goes on (risk based pricing is fun), and while you have some control over who clicks your £20 per click ad, you can easily burn through a lot of budget on meaningless clicks. Looking at established definitions, this is Advertising. Hold on though.

With PPC, once someone has clicked your ad and visited your site, you can re-target them on PPC, and serve up all manner of quite tailored messages, which sounds a little more like marketing.

Public Relations

The discipline of Public Relations (PR) is distinct from Marketing and Advertising in two key areas.

The primary audience is not exclusively the customer or potential customer, extending beyond this to include investors, journalists and commentators, employees and other businesses. PR can be deployed in both a proactive way in order to reinforce the company and its brand through developing relationships with publishers and journalists in order that a positive message is communicated, seemingly in an impartial way. PR can also be deployed in a damage limitation situation, looking to divert attention from a damaging event, or presenting it in a better light.

PR operates largely in the earned space, which is to say that coverage relating to PR cannot be bought or directly controlled. As an example, I remember a press release from one of my former employers discussing how workers in the UK had the best work-life balance – backed by robust research about working hours etc. Sounds good? Well, unhelpfully a major tabloid newspaper flipped this on its head, presenting the UK workforce being the laziest! Still, the company got coverage, so it could be argued the outcome was successful.

PR activities include both online and offline, including:

  • Press releases
  • Journalist briefings
  • Events and conferences
  • Financial results presentations
  • White papers and features stories
  • Social media

The key point in PR is that it is built on, and dependent upon, relationships. It requires a network of contacts who you hope will be receptive to your message, and hopefully inclined (but not required) to present you positively.


However you choose to label your activities, for me there is one important point to take away from this. A brand needs to ensure that wherever, whenever and however it communicates, there must be a consistency in the message, and the way in which the brand conducts itself.