The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising: A Look at Advertising

Marketing, public relations and advertising all have their places in business. Following posts on marketing and public relations, this takes a look at advertising.

Advertising, by definition, is the action of calling something to the attention of the public or a specific audience (B2B or B2C) especially through paid announcements. Advertising is part of marketing in that it is one method of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service from producer to consumer.

Examples of advertising
Like with marketing and public relations, a wide variety of channels may be considered. Traditional channels include, but are not limited to, print ads, outdoor billboards or signs, radio or TV broadcast, online ad placements or pay-per-click Internet campaigns. Social media outlets include blogs, social networking, video sharing, and others. Social media channels are not unlike traditional advertising vehicles in that they sell space, whether through online ads, company links, or other venues. The difference with social media is that it only uses Internet and web-based technologies.

Marketing, public relations and advertising each contribute value to a company. Sometimes efforts may overlap. A website, for example, can encompass all three elements with a specific sales promotion (marketing), product advertisements (advertising) and company news releases (public relations). Integrated Marketing Communications considers all the tools available, including online and offline communication channels, as well as traditional, social and new approaches to determine the most strategic, most cost-effective and most advantageous line of attack a company can take to maximize its impact to achieve the greatest return on its investment.


This post is part of a three-part series by Christina Motley:

The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Marketing
The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Public Relations
The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Advertising


Christina Motley is an award-winning marketing and communications professional, writer and consultant. You're invited to follow her on Twitter @christinamotley.

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  1. Reading your blogs the last few days have me ready to change teh layout of my site and become more creative with it. I am also ready to try some more print media advertising. I am ready to take on the world!!!

    Thanks for giving me the push I need.

  2. Isn’t public relations and advertising just components of Marketing? It seems you are trying to say marketing is different from those elements. Not sure I understand — maybe you can elaborate further on this point?

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful comments on these posts by Christina, Cameron!

    I’m loving this analogy from Tara Joyce’s blog:

    If a young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If the young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is — that’s advertising. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is — that’s public relations.

  4. Thank you Cameron and Sid for your comments.

    Cameron, you are correct. PR and advertising fall under the umbrella of marketing. However, some companies view these as independent functions. That is to say, they may only advertise or do PR and not necessarily have an integrated, comprehensive marketing plan where all elements, channels and functions work together for the best results.

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