How Does Content Marketing Differ From Advertising?


Advertising is meant to get a product or service out to the public, while content marketing develops relationships with customers and nurtures them to buy the product or service.

Content marketing and advertising may be necessary to your business, but they serve very different purposes in your marketing strategy.

Let’s look at advertising vs. marketing to understand how content marketing differs from traditional advertising, and how content marketing works for businesses.

What Is Advertising?

Advertising is about talking the talk.

Advertising calls attention to a product or service to promote its sale.

Traditional advertising includes TV commercials, print ads (magazines, newspapers, brochures, and flyers), radio spots, billboards, and online banner ads.

Ads say, “Hey! Look at me! Buy me!”

Content marketing is very different from advertising in the way it’s shared. With advertising, the business itself runs the show. They decide where and when their ads are shared.

With advertising, you’re simply showing customers what you’re selling and praising the benefits of that product or service.

Advertising continues to be a major channel through which companies attract new customers. But in recent years, the industry has come a long way from flyers and newspaper classifieds.

In the past, advertising was strictly limited to print, radio, and television.

With the rise of internet advertising, we now have more channels than ever before, from social media posts to display ads to email campaigns.

With online content, there is much more opportunity to talk with consumers.

They can leave comments on your blog posts, interact with you on your webinar or podcast, comment on and like your social media posts.

And content allows you to respond, letting you get to know your potential customers and allowing them to trust you.

You may have heard the terms “native advertising” and “content marketing” about contemporary advertising.

The two differ in several ways, including objective and format, and below, we will break down their main differences.

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Is Traditional Advertising and Traditional Marketing Dying?

There is still a place for traditional advertising. Companies will still need to launch new products, announce special offers, and drive general awareness.

However, content marketing has allowed brands to be more useful to customers when they aren’t looking to buy; to become a valuable part of their lives at every stage.

Traditional advertising methods like radio spots and television ads have topped the marketing strategies for a long time—but with so many people online these days, marketing is moving in a different direction.

Content now plays a massive part in how consumers get their information, and greatly influences their buying decisions.

Native Advertising

In native advertising, the content is placed on a platform that usually involves a “pay-to-play” system.

Content marketing gives a website more (for lack of a better word) content, which helps it rank higher on various search engines, and creates more value for your clients and customers through guides, tutorials, tips, resources, and more.

According to Hubspot, Adblock Plus, the world’s most popular ad-blocking extension, has been downloaded over 500 million times.

In the same report, 68% of respondents said they did not mind ads, as long as they were not annoying.

While ad blockers continue to block out pop-ups and banner ads, native ads are not usually affected, which helps explains how they have become so common.

What Is Content Marketing?

Marketing helps determine how to competitively price a product or service, its ideal target audience, why that audience would want your product or service, and how best to explain its value.

Content marketing, however, is the practice of drawing your audience to you by delivering valuable content they are already seeking and building authority around your brand.

Content marketing is about walking the walk.

Content is easily consumed and shared by the readers, making content marketing very peer-driven.

Where advertising merely promotes a product, content marketing develops relationships.

Instead of putting yourself in people’s faces and hoping to get their attention, content marketing brings people to you because you give them something they want.

Instead of mentioning things, content marketing puts out content that the target consumer finds interesting, sound, or valuable.

You advertise to people; you market to them.

This doesn’t mean that advertising doesn’t have its place; it’s often an important part of a marketing plan.

Advertising shouldn’t be the only way to get your message to potential customers.

Content marketing is a more pleasant way for your audience to experience your brand, and it’s far more cost-effective than traditional ads.

A content marketing strategy may include keeping an updated blog on your website, posting engaging material on social media, and providing useful information in podcasts, videos, or webinars.

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What Is Content Advertising?

While content marketing brings organic traffic to your website, content advertising requires an upfront investment.

Too many of these ads can be as disruptive and intrusive as TV commercials. This is why it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out marketing strategy — to ensure a good ROI.

When you enter a search query in a search engine, the first listings that appear are all paid content.

Readers can differentiate them from organic search results because they’re clearly identified as ads.

Both content marketing and advertising are effective in their places; advertising merely promotes a product directly, whereas content marketing develops relationships.

Keep in mind that content marketing does tend to be a bit slower to generate results than advertising practices.

It takes time but, over time, you can produce consistent and valuable results.

Is It Worth Investing In Content Marketing?

The truth is, you are going to have to. Not only is your audience excepting a richer experience with your brand, but your marketing competition is also investing heavily in the method.

We’re talking 91% of B2B and 86% of B2C marketers incorporating content marketing into their overall marketing strategy.

Before jumping on the wagon, you need to understand the differences between content marketing and paid advertising.

Google Ads

Google Ads are a mainstay for many brands. They can certainly provide leads, but the quality is always questionable.

In a highly competitive field, average bids for keywords can escalate fast.

If you compare first-page organic rankings for keywords, organic search results garner clicks more of the time.

A recent survey supports this, as 70% of marketers believe SEO is better than PPC at generating sales.

Content marketing ROI wins this round. Positive ROAS (return on ad spend) is minimal for companies.

It can quickly become a money pit. Further, in most cases, it’s tough to attribute outbound advertising, like TV and radio.

Search Engine Results

When potential customers search for something related to your industry online, you want them to find you ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP).

Keep in mind that content marketing does tend to be a bit slower to generate results than more direct marketing tactics.

It takes time for content to be indexed by the major search engines and for a company’s domain to gain enough traction to consistently rank high in the SERPs.

Video Marketing

This humanizes your brand and makes you more trustworthy. Something else that gives plenty of food for thought is the vast number of people who rely on video for content.

A whopping 70% of YouTube viewers have bought from a business after seeing their content on the online platform.

You can use it to showcase a product, create tutorials, or talk about the industry you’re in so that consumers become better informed.

Even if they don’t buy something from you today, they may do so down the road. You can repurpose the content and turn it into a blog post.

Anyone who has ever been on YouTube has seen several kinds of ads in their videos. The types of ads companies use include:

Outstream Ads: Created only for mobile devices.

Bumper Ads: Non-skippable in-stream ads that appear before, during, or after a video lasting six seconds.

Skippable In-Stream Ads: These can be skipped by visitors after five seconds, but they can last up to three minutes.

Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads: While these can’t be skipped, they can only run for 15 seconds.

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Social Media Posts as Digital Ads

Social media is one of the primary ways people entertain and educate themselves. From TikTok to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, if your brand is not actively creating valuable content, then you’re missing out. And chances are, you will slowly go the way of the buffalo if you do not adopt a strong digital presence.

What Is Digital Advertising?

Over the last decade, a considerable ratio of marketers has been trying different forms of marketing and advertising.

With the great shift to digital media, companies nowadays focus more on digital advertising.

Display ads are image, text, and video ads shown to people as they browse websites, apps, social media, with an intent to explore or purchase any product or service.

Display ads allow for catchy messaging and help create initial interest and boost branding to stand out and attract attention.

Many of them have succeeded to a great extent in attracting relevant customers, turning them into potential leads, and ultimately increasing sales.

Display Ads

These are images or text that appear on apps and websites.

There are four main types of display ads:

  • App Ads: These target mobile app categories.
  • Text Ads: These include a headline, description, and a link sending users to a landing page.
  • Gmail Ads: These appear as custom ads in Gmail, allowing users to expand them, save them, and forward them.
  • Banner Ads: These can be customized in the layout.

Discovery Ads

These are presented in a video thumbnail form and include a small amount of text.

What Is Earned Media?

Earned media doesn’t require money to obtain. It’s free media you gain through your customers.

Examples include followers sharing a brand’s post, press mentions, and bloggers reviewing your product.

What Is Paid Media?

Unlike earned media, paid media is something you must pay to profit from. Examples include PPC, social ads, and any other form of advertising.

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People Want Knowledge, Not Promotions

Content marketing wins ROI. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times more leads.

If you’re going to invest, it makes fiscal sense to do it here.

Making Sense of It All

Whether you call it content or advertising, the purpose of media and information created for marketing is to attract, engage and persuade people to take action – purchase, engage, advocate.

The big disconnect in discussions about content marketing vs. advertising is that they almost always occur through a siloed perspective.

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Be sure to keep up with our blogs as we offer valuable hints, tricks, and inside scoops on all things sales and marketing.

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