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Digital Advertising Versus Digital Marketing —What’s The Difference?

The lines between advertising and marketing have always been a little hazy. These lines have become even more blurred in the digital age. 


These two activities — marketing and advertising — are so closely related that many marketers and/or advertisers use the terms interchangeably.


Naturally, this creates a lot of confusion in the business world, especially for companies that want to grow the reach of their brands and products. 


Is it best to develop an advertising strategy? Or, is digital marketing the best avenue for reaching customers?


How do we identify digital marketing activities versus digital advertising ones?

Here you can see one more topic:


What Is Digital Advertising?

The Wikipedia definition of digital advertising claims it is “a form of marketing and advertising which uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers.”


Even Wikipedia can’t keep these two straight!


Digital advertising goes by a number of other names that help shed some light on a more accurate definition. These terms include online advertising, Internet advertising and web advertising.


Thus, we can define digital advertising as ads placed online. Whenever you are promoting a product or extending the reach of your brand through the use of pay per click (PPC) search ads, display ads or social media ads, then you are engaging in digital advertising.


The challenge then becomes identifying an ad versus a marketing message.

What Is Digital Marketing

For digital marketing, the definition is a little clearer. “Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.


Still a little bit of crossover between these two terms, but better.


Essentially, we’re talking about any activity that uses digital technologies to help a company achieve its marketing goals.


Social media, SEO, websites, mobile apps, online content, email, Internet experiences and many other strategies fall under the category of digital marketing.


This is why digital marketing is often referred to as an umbrella term.

The Differences Between Digital Marketing And Digital Advertising

Now that we’ve loosely defined these two terms, we can begin exploring the differences between digital marketing and digital advertising.

The Goals Are Similar But The Scope Is Different

Some marketing professionals consider digital advertising a subset of digital marketing. In other words, digital advertising is another strategy that falls under the expansive umbrella of digital marketing.


The definitions of each would support this. So, it isn’t a wrong conclusion.


A lot of the crossover between these two terms occurs because the goals of each are fundamentally the same. Whether you’re advertising or marketing, the objective is to reach and convert target audiences.


The real difference is the scope of each strategy. The digital marketing process is far more complex and involves many different steps. You could argue that marketing starts the moment you choose a name for your brand or begin developing your first product.


Digital advertising involves far fewer tactics than digital marketing and the process is simpler. This is why advertising is often lumped under the roof of digital marketing.

Digital Marketing Is Mandatory, But Advertising Isn’t

While both digital marketing and advertising have similar end goals, only marketing is truly mandatory. Every step of your business process has to involve marketing. 


You always need to be thinking about how each activity makes your company more marketable and attractive to customers. If you aren’t thinking about your audience and the target market and revising your strategies accordingly, success and growth are not going to come.


If you were going to drive from New York to Los Angeles, you’d have a route planned that would guide your journey. If you just hopped in the car and started driving with the hope of reaching LA, you would not reach your destination.


That’s what it is like to run a business without marketing. You cannot run a successful business without marketing. You can, however, do so without advertising.


There’s plenty of profitable businesses that neglect to run a single digital advertisement.


You can also argue that digital marketing can stand on its own, but advertising cannot. Advertising supports marketing, but without that foundation, it can’t perform.

Brand Awareness And Sales Or Brand Development And Engagement

Digital advertising is limited to stimulating brand awareness and creating sales. These are both great results, which help a business grow and prosper, but a business needs more.


Marketing’s focus is on developing that brand and engaging customers. Again, this is why advertising isn’t able to stand on its own without marketing efforts. You can’t promote brand awareness for a brand that isn’t developed.


While sales and revenue is ultimately your goal, you need to engage customers on their favorite channels first. Not every marketing action you make is about creating immediate sales. 


Instead, you’re growing the customer experience, which helps your business stand out from other companies offering similar products or services.

Paid Versus Unpaid

There is always a paid element to digital advertising, but not always with digital marketing. 


Any time that you are placing an advertisement on the Internet, whether on a search engine, social media platform or a website, there is a direct cost. Typically, this cost is when someone clicks your ad, which is where we get the concept of pay per click.


On the other hand, digital marketing activities are free, at least in theory. It costs nothing to start a social media account, or to create content, or to rank for organic search results.


Sure, you may have to pay someone to handle these strategies, but the activity itself is cost-free. Here you can must see our this topic Why Responsive Search Ads are More Successful


Digital advertising and digital marketing are very similar to one another. The activities of one strategy impacts the other and vice versa. This is why some people consider the terms interchangeable.


However, there are distinct differences between advertising and marketing, which is why these two terms need to be properly defined and understood.


Ultimately, you absolutely need to include digital marketing into your company’s strategies. But, digital advertising is optional.