Marketing and advertising are very related things, but are ultimately different in terms of their purpose and how they are used.

You might say that advertising is one component of marketing, but let’s back up.

Marketing in a broad sense is the formulation of strategy for a business and its brand to position itself to the public. It’s the messaging used, the pictures, the colors, the culture, and the tone. All the spinoff terms that come from it — TV marketing, direct mail marketing, digital marketing, etc. — all follow the overall marketing plan and message.

Sometimes a marketing goal can be to expand the audience’s awareness of the brand and not necessarily to sell directly. Some of the messaging and the content created/shared are put out there largely to answer questions and meaningfully be seen by that audience.

Advertising is essentially a highly targeted piece of content meant for a specific group of customers, based heavily on the brand’s tone and overall message. It is one piece of the overall campaign meant specifically for one smaller subsection of the overall audience the business might be selling to.

Advertising tends to be more overtly about sales, but that makes sense since by definition advertising involves investing money. With any direct investment there’s an implied expectation of a return on investment.

Marketing vs. Advertising Implementation

One major way advertising differs from many of the sub-genres of marketing is that it’s all about interruption of attention.

A TV ad comes on in the middle of a show and must capture the viewer’s attention quickly to be effective because the viewer is not really interested in the ad since it’s interrupting their show. A Facebook ad interrupts your news feed or features alongside it.

The key is that it’s pitching something you as the reader/viewer were not necessarily looking for beforehand. Its goal then is to persuade the viewer by creating the greatest impression of value possible while that attention lasts.

(As opposed to SEO, which is entirely about positioning your content in front of someone who is actively searching for that very thing.)

Advertising is a great way to announce new products and services because it isn’t counting on someone already knowing about it or looking for it. If the ad is compelling enough it can surprise people and refocus their attention toward your offering.

But since it is ultimately an interruption, many forms of advertising have a comparatively low conversion rate. It becomes a numbers game where you must put your ad in front of as many people as possible because less than 3% may take action.

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