The difference between marketing and advertising

The difference between marketing and advertising featured image

Marketing and advertising are often lumped together and used interchangeably. But marketing and advertising are not the same thing, and if you want to be successful with either, you need to understand why and how they’re different—and how to use each effectively. So, what is the difference between marketing and advertising? Why is it important to separate the two? And how can you use both to take your business to the next level?

These are the questions we will explain in the article below.

The difference between marketing and advertising

Alright, so first things first, marketing and advertising are two different things. But what exactly is the difference? Advertising and marketing both have the same goal. And that is to get your business and messaging in front of your ideal customers.

But the main difference when you talk about marketing vs. advertising? Advertising (which includes things like banner ads, social media ads, or billboards) is just a single strategy that falls under the marketing umbrella. In other words, advertising is a form of marketing. But marketing also encompasses a ton of other strategies with the goal of getting the word out about your business (like content marketing, sales presentations, brochures, and podcasting).

So, in a nutshell, advertising is a slice of the pie, but marketing is the whole pie. And if advertising is all you’re doing to market your business, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities (or slices of pie) to elevate your brand, connect with your customers, and drive sales for your business.

Connect with your customers by customizing the fresh and sleek Orange Modern Travel Trifold Brochure and Black and Red Bold Company Trifold Brochure template.

How to tell the difference between marketing and advertising

So, now that you know the difference between advertising and marketing, let’s dig a little deeper into how to distinguish between the two.

Advertising is anything that has to do with—you guessed it—ads. Advertising occurs across multiple mediums, but the one factor all advertising has in common is that the brand or marketer pays to send a specific message (the ad) on a certain platform. Typically, the more desirable the platform—and the more desirable the audience that platform reaches—the more brands/marketers can expect to pay for the ad (so, for example, buying a quarter-page ad in a regional trade publication is going to cost a lot less than a full-page ad in a national magazine; you’ll pay more for a two-minute commercial during the hottest primetime TV show than you would for a 30-second spot on a local news channel).

Marketing, on the other hand, is any practice or action that’s taken to promote your brand. As mentioned, this can include advertising—but it also includes any other promotional activities your brand leverages to get the word out about your products, services, or business as a whole. Sometimes, you have to pay for marketing practices, but not always! Unlike advertising, there are plenty of free marketing strategies you can leverage to get the word out about your company (and drive serious results in the process).

In a nutshell, if you pay to serve an ad to an audience on a specific platform or medium (so, for example, Facebook or television), it’s advertising—which is just one component of your marketing strategy. But your marketing strategy can (and should!) be much broader than just advertising; anything you do to promote your brand—like write a blog post or hand out flyers at a local event—also falls under the marketing umbrella.

Advertising and marketing in action

Ok, so now that we’re clear on the difference between advertising and marketing, let’s take a peek at what that looks like in action.


Advertising is just one marketing strategy, but there are a ton of different ads you can use to reach your target customers, both on and offline.

Banner ads

Banner ads are a lot like digital real estate; you pay the owner (whatever website you’re advertising on) to “rent” space (the place where you show your banner ad, which is typically on the top of the page or in the sidebar). Whenever someone visits that website, in addition to seeing the website’s content, they’ll also see your banner ad—and, if they click it, it drives them back to your website or landing page.

Examples of banner ads below.

Adobe banner ads. Image via bannersnack blog

ebay banner ads. Image via bannersnack blog

MailChimp banner ads. Image via bannersnack blog

Want to design your own banner ads? Get started with Canva’s web banners templates (like the Blue Canoes & Paddles Medium Rectangle Banner, the Honey Photo Blog Banner, or the Painting Blog Banner).

Social media ads

Social media is one of the most popular mediums to advertise on; not only is just about everyone is active on social media, but most social media platforms (including Facebook and Instagram) offer unparalleled targeting options that let you get extremely specific with who, exactly, sees your ads, such as Facebook video ads.

This allows you to create ads targeted to specific audiences, which can drive up conversions (and drive down costs). So, for example, if you were trying to drive local business, instead of showing your ads to everyone within a five-mile radius, you can narrow down the audience by parameters like age, gender, income level, interests, and whether they follow your competitors to make sure the people that see your ads are the people most likely to actually become customers.

With Canva’s social graphics templates, you can create images for all of your social media advertising needs, including Facebook (like the Pink White Minimalist Spring Sale Post or the Seafood and Blue Photo Facebook Post) and Instagram (like the Brown Photo Garage Sale Instagram Post or the Blue Photo Men Fashion Shoes Instagram Post).


If you’ve ever driven down a highway, chances are, you’ve seen a billboard or two. And, at the core of a billboard's significance? It’s just a big ad. If banner ads take up digital real estate, billboards take up actual real estate—and if brands can place their billboards in a place their ideal customers are likely to see them (and see them often), they can be great at driving brand recognition (and, ultimately, sales).

Here are some examples of billboards below. Billboard. Image via Clever Concepts

Chick-fil-A billboard. Image via AdWeek

Magazine ads

A lot of magazines have gone digital these days, but there are still plenty of print publications hitting people’s mailboxes each month. The magazine industry relies on advertising cash to keep their publications in circulation, and as such, have ample room each issue for ads. If you can find a magazine with an audience that aligns with yours, it can be a great way to get your brand in front of your target customers (so, for example, if you own a children’s apparel company, advertising in a parenting magazine would be a slam dunk). You can create your own design by using our magazine mockups before printing.

Examples of magazine ads below.

Volkswagen magazine ad. Image via A Nerd’s World

popchips magazine ads (featuring Katy Perry!). Image via Branding Mag

McDonald’s magazine ad. Image via A Nerd’s World

Magazines will most likely have their own ad specifications, but you can at least start laying out ideas with Canva’s magazine cover templates, like the Pastel Fashion Magazine Cover, the Galactic Technology Magazine Cover, or the White Nature Travel Magazine Cover.


So, now that we’ve seen what advertising looks like in action, let’s take a look at examples of some of the many other marketing strategies you can leverage to promote your brand.

Content marketing

If you’re a marketer, unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you’ve heard the term “content is king.” And it’s true. Content marketing—which includes everything from ebooks to blog posts to case studies to whitepapers to infographics—is one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience, establish yourself as an expert within your industry, and provide real value to your customers—all of which can provide a serious boost to your recognition, traffic, and revenue.

However, the key to an effective content marketing strategy is targeting your customer at their specific stage in the content marketing funnel. Whether readers visit your website in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage, having a full understanding of your audience and developing a full-content funnel strategy is critical to increasing online sales.

Infographic via Clicta Digital

Examples of content marketing below.

Infographic via American Heart Association

Automizy Ebook example, difference between marketing and advertising

Infographics are one of the most visually impactful forms of content marketing. And with Canva’s infographic templates (like the Maroon Creating Shirts Infographic or the Green Modern Process Infographic), you can easily share key marketing messaging, data, or your brand story in a way that’s going to give you plenty of marketing bang for your buck.

Email marketing

An engaged email list is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. But the keyword there is engaged. It doesn’t matter how many people you have on your email list—if you’re not regularly engaging your list through thoughtful and strategic email campaigns, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to drive sales for your business.

Having a solid email marketing strategy (which might include things like sending “thank you” emails following a purchase, sharing regular discount codes, or giving sneak peeks of new products) is a great way to market your brand, stay top of mind with your customers, and drive repeat business.

Examples of email marketing below.

Image via Dribbble

You’ll need an email marketing tool or cold email software in order to create emails to send to your audience—but you can use Canva’s templates (including infographic templates like the Simple Red Infographic, logo templates like the Green Connection Icon Internet Logo, or coupon templates like the Yellow Cyber Monday Coupon Your Story) to create the visuals to use within those emails.

Sales presentations

Part of marketing is getting the word out about your business. But another huge part of marketing? Is actually selling your business.

Depending on what industry you’re in, sales presentations might play an important part of your marketing strategy. A good sales presentation can help you get investors interested in your business, close large deals, and overcome any objections potential customers may have by breaking down the benefits of your products or service.

Examples of sales presentations below.

AirBnB’s pitch deck via SlideShare

Buffer investor deck via SlideShare

SEOmoz pitch deck via SlideShare

One component of building a successful sales presentation is the content—but another huge component is the visuals. Make sure your sales presentation looks the part—and impresses your audience—by using one of Canva’s presentation templates (like the Greyscale and Turquoise Pitch Deck Presentation or the Brown Bread Photo Pitch Deck Presentation).

Marketing brochures

If you want to compile key marketing messaging into a simple, comprehensive package that you can leave behind with potential clients or customers, you won’t find a better way to do it than marketing brochures.

Marketing brochures are big enough that you can fit in plenty of messaging and photos about your marketing initiative (like a new product launch or a company rebrand)—but small enough that you can easily get them into the hands of your ideal customers. Whether you mail your marketing brochures, hand them out at events, or drop them off at potential clients’ offices, marketing brochures allow you to deliver your marketing messaging to the people who matter most long after you’ve connected with them in person.

Examples of marketing brochures below.

Marketing brochure design by 99designs designer Helliumworks Studio

Marketing brochure design by 99designs designer YaseenArt

Marketing brochure design by 99designs designer --Hero

Brochures are one of the most universal marketing strategies out there; you can use brochures to market a business, a new product, a service—pretty much anything! Canva has a wide variety of brochure templates (like the Cream and Gray Coffee Minimal Sales Trifold Brochure or the Pink and Green Triangle Modern Company Brochure) that you can customize to fit your brand.

Event flyers

Flyers may be an old-school marketing strategy, but they can definitely be an effective one—especially when it comes to events.

Creating a flyer is a great way to promote your next event—and make sure the right people get there. For example, let’s say you own a sneaker company, and you wanted to promote an upcoming running clinic. You could create event flyers to pass out at similar events (like at local races or running clubs), post them in local businesses where runners might frequent (like juice shops or athletic apparel stores), or send them out to your mailing list.

Not only are event flyers a great print marketing strategy, but they also work in the digital space. You can also share the digital image of your event flyer across your social channels or post it on your website—and drive even more people to your event.

Examples of event flyers below.

BottleRock Music Festival Event Poster via

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Event Poster. Image via epk collection

Get the word out about your next event—and make sure people are actually excited to attend—with Canva’s event flyer templates (like the Dark Blue Simple Movie Night Event Flyer, the Yellow Camera Photography Flyer, or the Light Blue and Monochrome Job Fair Flyer).

Social media posts

We already covered how powerful social media advertising can be—but that’s not the only marketing opportunity social media offers. Creating a brand presence across social media platform and regularly posting relevant content and images is a great way to build a relationship with your audience, expand your reach, and drive engagement—all of which can have a huge impact on your brand’s success.

Examples of social media posts below.

Nordstrom Facebook post. Image via wishpond

Roxy Instagram post via @ROXY

The key to success with social media marketing is creating posts that grab people’s attention. Design eye-grabbing visuals to go with your social media posts with Canva’s social graphics templates (like the Dreamy Sunset Mountains Instagram Post or the Orange Desk Job Post Vacancy Announcement Facebook Post).

Use marketing and advertising to take your business to the next level

No matter what business you’re in, advertising and marketing are a must. And now that you know the difference between the two—and have seen how both can work to get the word out about your business—you have everything you need to leverage both advertising and marketing to take your brand to the next level.

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