Advertising, Marketing and PR: are they different, and should you care?

June 03, 2014

Definitions

Advertising: A [single component] of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take or continue to take some action. (Wikipedia) 

Marketing: The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service. (Wikipedia)

PR (Public Relations): The practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation and the public. (Wikipedia)

 

How are they different?
(from Laura Lake, about.com)

The best way to distinguish between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie, inside that pie you have slices of advertising, market research, media planning, public relations (PR), product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy, and community involvement.

Advertising only equals one piece of the pie in the strategy. All of these elements must not only work independently but they also must work together towards the bigger goal…Think of marketing as everything that an organisation does to facilitate an exchange between company and consumer.

 

Where it gets confusing

Every so often a campaign or project idea (or task) will be tabled that may make you feel slightly “uncomfortable”, or, perhaps “out of your depth”. The idea sounds as though it fits within the parameters of the campaign, and yet not quite. The answer may lie in the murky crossover between advertising, marketing and PR. Here’s an example:

Your client is about to launch a new product to the market. It’s a handbag made of the finest quality leather in an extremely stylish design. You and your client agree that if only you could get their handbag into the hands of a well-known celebrity, the celeb may be photographed using it (or, better yet, tweet about it). That would be marvellous for the product and company brand image.

Your excited client turns to you and asks you to identify suitable celebrities to send the bags to, and then facilitate the distribution, letters of communication and follow-up. You start to twitch nervously.

Had you been asked to secure a celebrity for use in a print campaign to advertise the bag, you probably would have jumped straight on it and the campaign would be in the market within a matter of weeks. However, what your client actually requested was PR-related, hence why you started to feel out of your depth. 

Let's go back to Laura Lake's original analogy of advertising and PR being pieces of the whole marketing pie. It becomes easier to understand how PR will be essential to the launch of your client’s new product - complimentary to your world of advertising, yet very different in strategy and execution.

As advertising is a piece of the whole marketing pie, there will be much you do day-to-day that can be found in a 'Marketing 101' textbook. Invariably you will have client discussions about things such as products, pricing, promotions, people, etc. Core marketing principles are directly intertwined with advertising strategies. You are also to likely see a strong crossover with the likes of media planning/buying and market research. 

Unless you have a strong marketing background you should be wary of how you advise your client in marketing matters. You can (and should) become an extension of your client’s marketing team (that’s the ideal goal), and your client may rely heavily on you for marketing-esque advice. However, always remember that you are not trying to be (or being paid to be) their Marketing Manager. Understanding the differences between marketing and advertising should help define your client/agency relationship on an ongoing basis.

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