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What Is the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising?

February 25, 2021

While both serve the ultimate purpose of growing the customer base for their clients, advertising and marketing occupy different spaces in a company’s sales strategy. If you are looking for a job in either of these fields, it’s important to know what their respective goals and methods are so you can better understand where you might fit in. In this article, we explain what marketing and advertising are and the differences between the two industries.

What is marketing?

Marketing is the process of establishing relationships between an organization and its audience, typically through promotional efforts. It is the process through which a company defines its products and services, researches potential markets and creates a strategy for how the company can target its audience. A marketing department or an executive board at a company is responsible for implementing and overseeing the marketing process.

What is a marketing campaign?

Here are the steps that marketing professionals typically follow when planning a marketing campaign:

1. Identify the company’s unique value proposition. This step answers the question about what this company provides that is unique and better than competitors to solve customers’ problems.

2. Explore potential markets. Using market research, these professionals identify who is the best audience to target for their products or services. They may determine their customers’ wants, needs, preferences, shopping styles and other demographic information that informs a consumer’s decisions.

3. Design a strategy that targets potential markets. Marketing executives select diverse channels that are most ideal to promote information about their product or service to target markets based on research.

4. Continue research and collect feedback. Marketing also involves receiving feedback about these interactions with potential customers to determine ways to improve their strategy or alter their target audience based on shifting preferences or other characteristics.

What is advertising?

Advertising is an aspect of marketing, and it is the communication used by a company to deliver a marketing strategy. It is the use of media to share information about products and services with the public and target markets. Many companies employ advertising in traditional media, such as newspaper ads, magazine ads, TV commercials, radio ads, billboards and website banners. New forms of advertising include social media ads, promotions and influencer partnerships.

In some cases, advertising efforts are done in-house if there is sufficient staff. Otherwise, a company might take bids from external advertising agencies and decide which agency could best handle the design, film production, copywriting and graphic design needs for their marketing plan.

What does an advertising agency do?

Here are some of the tasks performed by professionals in an advertising agency:

Develop the overall creative plan. An advertising team designs an overarching plan that includes identifying the message, tone, style, audience and the media. They typically use third-party data and input from the marketing team to make these decisions and ultimately present their findings to the executive board or a client.

Deliver creative materials. Once a plan has been approved, an account manager distributes a creative brief to the team, and the creative director begins to execute the plan. Photographers will capture or source images while producers will hire models and scout locations. Copywriters will write the content while graphic designers will use desktop publishing and graphic design programs to create ads.

Key differences between advertising and marketing

Both advertising and marketing are involved in the company’s “branding” process—the creation of a look, logo and identity that is instantly recognizable. However, they require a slightly different education and skill set with roles often focusing on a different angle. The differences between the two sectors include:


Both professions require the minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be hired by most firms, but their coursework is usually quite different from each other. Still, you may find some overlap between the two fields of study.

A marketing professional might obtain a Bachelor of Science in Marketing or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. There are also specific aspects of marketing in which they can obtain degrees, such as social media marketing or marketing management. Further studies could include a Master of Business Administration with concentrations in fields such as supply chain management and sales. Classes might include marketing research, sales management, web-based marketing and promotion management.

An advertising professional is likely to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Communications or a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising. If they pursue a communications degree, they may take classes in journalism, communication, broadcast and public relations in addition to advertising, copywriting, new media communication and design. A degree in advertising typically has a more narrow focus on advertising skills in creative strategy, copywriting, design, principles of advertising, content creation, brand strategy and perhaps even some sociology classes. Coursework is likely to be hands-on and creative.

Goals and responsibilities

A marketing professional’s job centers around the creation of a cohesive marketing message for the product or service the company provides. Job duties include:

  • Conducting research into the market to determine probable buyers

  • Conveying the research to advertising and sales professionals

  • Creating a multi-pronged approach to marketing that encompasses advertising as well as aspects such as sponsorships and product placement

  • Overseeing the different marketing approaches to ensure the message is cohesive and unified

An advertising professional’s job is to carry out one aspect of the marketing plan of the company by creating print, radio, broadcast and internet advertisements that entice and inform potential customers about the product or service the company is selling. Job duties can include:

  • Using computer software such as Photoshop to design print ads
  • Brainstorming and creating storyboards and proposals for advertisements
  • Scouting models and locations for photo and video shoots for advertisements
  • Writing engaging copy and taglines to go with the ads


Marketing professionals approach the product or service from a business perspective. They are focused on strategies that will gain the most number of customers. Their work requires the following skills:

  • Analytical skills, including the ability to analyze large sets of data

  • Business and financial skills, including the ability to plan budgets, allocate funds to campaigns and estimate Return on Investment

  • Research skills, including familiarity with various software and apps that help study the market

An advertising professional needs to understand what the product is and who the audience is and translate that information into the most effective ad to fulfill the marketing strategy. Skills that will help them do this job properly include:

  • Creative skills, including the ability to design visually striking ads, write taglines and craft compelling storylines for video ads

  • Communication skills, as they will be working in a team with other creative professionals, such as photographers and actors

  • Technical skills, in order to use graphic design programs or photo and video editing software

Marketing roles

The following are common career paths within the field of marketing:

National average salary: $17.16 per hour

Primary duties: These professionals serve as a public face for a company’s brand. They create, manage and implement social media strategies for clients, including creating original content on their own social media channels. Depending on the needs of the company, they may also appear in-person at events such as launches and trade shows.

National average salary: $82,400 per year

Primary duties: Marketing directors lead teams of marketing professionals in establishing a company’s target consumers. They also work to identify trends, analyze research and create a consistent strategy. These professionals also manage the marketing team or department’s budget to ensure all efforts are efficient and profitable.

National average salary: $108,957 per year

Primary duties: These professionals conduct market research and analyze competitors to understand the positions of their company’s product or service. Product marketing managers are responsible for ensuring consistent messaging and training a marketing team on best practices.

Advertising roles

Here are some common career paths within the field of advertising:

National average salary: $50,319 per year

Primary duties: This professional works to collect all creative output—including designs and copy—and facilitate its placement. They evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign based on consumer feedback, providing additional guidance as advertisers adjust old campaigns and develop new ones. They may also be involved in hiring and managing advertising staff, including designers and copywriters.

National average salary: $71,628 per year

Primary duties: This professional is in charge of the visual representation of a campaign, including design, layout, photography and videography. They often collaborate with the creative director to ensure the brand’s message is clearly, accurately and effectively conveyed through design. In addition, they may guide designers in developing spreads, icons, color schemes and other elements.

National average salary: $80,211 per year

Primary duties: This advertising professional leads the ad team in translating market analysis to create a cohesive and engaging brand, voice and campaign. They may be in charge of an advertising team’s budget for staffing, production and timeline.


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