Digital Advertising Vs. Digital Marketing – What’S the Difference

Digital Advertising Vs. Digital Marketing – What’S the Difference

Digital advertising Vs. digital marketing – what’s the difference?

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Marketing is a must… and not just because you think so. In this competitive age where every business is pushing through to get their message across, choosing a powerful and effective customer acquisition channel can be intimidating. Trying to figure out how to develop the strategy is enough to keep anyone up at night.

If you were to choose between digital marketing and digital advertising, which one would you go for?

Marketing and Advertising.

Are they the same?

Sure, both advertising and marketing are interrelated in several ways. In fact, a lot of marketers use them interchangeably.
Read: The definitive guide to optimising your sales funnel

Ironically, those who have studied digital marketing, digital advertising, or both use the two terms interchangeably and they do it confidently.

Some of the bugging questions we need to get out of the way are:

Are these two different terms?

Is digital marketing different from digital advertising? If so, to what extent?

Do I need a digital advertising plan or a digital marketing plan for my business?

Should I contact a digital marketing agency or a digital advertising agency for business growth?

These are some of the questions that will be discussed in detail in this article. Once you finish reading this article, you’ll hopefully be in a position to conceptualise and use digital marketing and digital advertising to grow your business.

Let’s start by looking at the definitions of both digital marketing and digital advertising.

Digital advertising

Wikipedia defines digital advertising as a form of marketing and advertising in which the messages are delivered to the target audience through the internet.

Digital advertising is also referred to as online advertising, web advertising, internet marketing, and more.

Chron defines digital advertising as a marketing media that is digitally displayed.

A much simpler definition comes from the balance, “if you see an ad on the internet, it is known as digital advertising. Pretty simple, right?”

Here’s how Marc Slutsky, the author of Smart Marketing defines it:

“The advertising campaign is the media that you use during a certain time frame to promote a product, service, or an event.”

So digital advertising is simply an ad on the internet.

Here’s an example of a digital ad promoting a Golf product. You see this banner ad pretty much all over the internet because Google display is the advertising channel used. It’s purely a form of digital advertising.

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The ads that you see in search results are also a type of digital advertising.

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So, when you run ads online to promote your products, services, business, or create brand awareness, you’re engaging in online advertising.

There are three main types of digital advertising, such as:

Pay Per Click search ads – also known as PPC (AdWords search ads, Bing ads, and Search7 ads)

Display ads (banner, static, video, mobile, pop-up, etc.)

Social ads (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.)

When you see a suggested post on Facebook, then you’re looking at a social ad which is a form of digital ad too.

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What is Digital Marketing?

According to Wikipedia, digital marketing is an umbrella term for marketing using digital technologies.

Business Dictionary defines it as a promotion of products/services via any form of electronic media.

Dave Chaffey defined digital marketing in his book Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation, and Practice, as achieving marketing objectives by applying digital technologies and media.

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According to HubSpot, digital marketing is any form of marketing that is done online.

In a nutshell, digital marketing is the marketing that’s done on the internet or through digital technologies. In order to fully understand digital marketing, it’s critical to understand what marketing is.

Marketing is defined by American Marketing Association as:

“The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Ever heard of 4Ps of marketing? Truth is, that’s actually what marketing is all about. It’s the process of putting the product in the right place at the right price at the right time.

When all of this is done using the internet, it transforms into digital marketing.

According to Chaffey, digital marketing includes managing different forms of online company presence such as the website, social media accounts, mobile app, etc.

HubSpot states that there are several assets and tactics that are part of digital marketing starting from company’s website to branding including digital advertising, email marketing, blog posts, infographics, logos, tools, white-papers, and everything else that is helpful in online promotion.

There are six different types of digital marketing:

1. SEO

2. SMM

3. Content marketing

  1. Email marketing
  2. 5. Online advertising
  3. Online PR

The following infographic puts everything about digital marketing into perspective.

This makes one thing clear, digital marketing is a broader term while digital advertising is just a part of digital marketing.

Is digital advertising necessary for your business?

No. It isn’t.

Your online business can survive without digital advertising.

Why? Because it’s just one way to promote your products on the internet. You can use any other medium to attract leads and customers and as long as you’re seeing results, it’s absolutely fine.

Your business needs digital advertising to generate traffic which is the third stage of the digital marketing process as defined by emarkable. You can choose to generate traffic from any other tactic via a search engine (e.g., Google), social media, email marketing, press release, content marketing, etc.

Digital advertising is just one part of your marketing mix. You need it the at promotion stage to inform target audience about your products and services.

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Although digital marketing is one option, you don’t necessarily have to use this form of advertising at the promotion stage to reach your target audience. ADP, for instance, used content marketing to connect and engage with their target audience.

They used white papers and assessment tools. The campaign generated well over $1 million in sales within 3 months.

The company didn’t use any other form of marketing. They didn’t use any ads to drive traffic and to generate sales.

So you can see that you can run a business successfully without digital advertising.

Twist Image is a website that was founded in 2000. The founder never ran a single ad. They never used digital advertising and they’re still doing very well today.

Is digital marketing necessary for your business?


You can’t be in business without digital marketing. Better yet, if you want to cut through the noise and finally drive loyal customers to your brand, you need to market digitally.

It defines the strategy on how you’ll market your business, how you’ll define the target audience, how you’ll attract, convert, and retain customers for your business. There is a whole lot of different things that are in the mind of a digital marketer.

Digital marketing is a strategy that helps you run your business without assumptions. It has multiple stages, here are some to name a few (as defined by HubSpot):

Defining the target audience and developing buyer personas.

Identifying goals and objective for digital marketing.

Evaluating digital marketing channels such as SEO, content marketing, PPC, etc.

Audit existing channels and acquire new channels.

Analysis and monitoring.

In a broader sense, it is a complete process that runs your business on the internet.

Clearly, a business will struggle to thrive without digital marketing.

The differences between digital advertising and digital marketing

In the section below, I’ll list all the noticeable differences between digital advertising and digital marketing so that you know when you’ve to use advertising and when marketing makes more sense.

Digital advertising is a subset of digital marketing

The definitions and types of digital advertising/marketing make one thing clear: digital advertising is a subset of digital marketing. It’s just one aspect of it.

When you want to market in a digital channel you need to begin with the business idea. When you share the business idea with an expert, you’re involved in marketing – not advertising.

The product idea, product creation, packaging, pricing, finding the target audience, defining marketing segments, are all the essential parts of your business marketing strategy.

Digital advertising comes into play when you use the internet to advertise your products or services or business or brands — that’s when you use one of the three types of digital advertising discussed above to promote your products or to generate traffic.

Digital advertising is one part of the digital marketing amongst several others. The purpose of all the marketing techniques is to generate traffic so you can choose any tactic that will grow your business. It could be SEO or PPC or both.

Digital marketing is a process while digital advertising is an activity

Digital marketing is a process that begins from the moment you choose the name of your business or even before that.

The process is continuous and never-ending. It starts from the market research phase and moves all the down to control and refining stage and the data from refining stage is then used again for research and to create a new marketing strategy.

In a nutshell, everything that you do online or share online is part of your business’ digital marketing process and strategy.

The McDonald’s iced fruit smoothie app is a perfect example of the digital marketing process. McDonald’s partnered with Innocent to promote its smoothies and ice cream.

Instead of creating a new app, McDonald’s partnered with apps that consumers had already downloaded. By playing a simple game, consumers win a free smoothie.

This partnership was McDonald’s digital marketing process to increase the sales of smoothie and ice creams. It wasn’t a digital advertising campaign because they never ran a single ad. The process began by:

Identifying the objectives

Creating buyer personas

Finding partner opportunities

Evaluating opportunities

Pushing the message

Tracking and refining the offers

This is how digital marketing process works.

Digital advertising, on the other hand, is an activity in the entire digital marketing process. In the image above, digital advertising fits in Step 6: Promote — where the purpose is to promote the published content, product, or anything else via ads to get exposure and traffic.

A digital advertiser needs input from the digital marketer in the form of what to promote, when to promote, what the advertising budget is, etc. The marketer will then create ads to send traffic to a landing page. It’s just a tiny activity in the entire digital marketing process.

Digital advertising is tactical while digital marketing is strategic in nature

Let’s start by understanding the difference between tactical and strategic operations.

The strategy is the plan that might be complex and often involves decision-making, patterns, and several activities while the tactic is the means used to obtain the desired goal.

Digital advertising is tactical in nature. It defines how you’ll promote the product or an offer to the target audience. It has a short time frame and can be easily replicated.

For instance, you might need to run a social ad on Facebook to promote your new product in order to increase sales during Christmas. Once you achieve the desired goal, you can stop the campaign and shift to another advertising campaign or channel.

On the other hand, digital marketing is strategic in nature. In fact, it’s deeply rooted in your business’ strategy. It involves:


Defining objectives

Setting annual goals

Setting marketing budget

Defining marketing metrics

Developing means to achieve the objectives

This strategy marketing plan has the potential longerity and is not easily replicated.

Let me share the case study of B2B Inbound Marketer, which grew its website from 0 to 4,000 monthly visitors in 4 years. Sounds too much, right? Well, the founder John Beveridge developed a digital marketing strategy from day one he knew the plan and what his projections were.

This is what digital marketing does.

As compared to an advertising campaign that can show results instantly. Angela Ponsford ran a Facebook ad campaign to generate leads. She spent $507 which resulted in $1980 of revenue and collected 400 leads.

The campaign was successful and there wasn’t any long-term planning behind it. She created the ad and that’s all.

Remember an advertising campaign doesn’t impact business if it fails but a digital marketing campaign severely hurts the business if it fails.

Digital advertising creates brand awareness while digital marketing develops the brand

The purpose of digital advertising is to promote the brand or generate sales. An advertisement is defined as a promotional message to sell a product. In the case of digital advertising, it is more related to traffic generation.

In all the cases, advertising is either used to promote a brand, a product or a service, or an idea.

For instance, LEGO used three documentaries to build brand awareness among mothers. They targeted mothers through Facebook ads and lifted brand awareness by 7-point.

On the other hand, marketing is used to develop a brand image and how your target audience perceives your brand when they see a logo or hear about your brand. The image is developed by digital marketing.

Again, it’s deep rooted in the strategy and can’t be achieved in a few months, it takes years. You have to develop a strategy to show your brand and its message to your target audience over and over again. This way, you’ll create an unforgetable brand.

Digital marketing is strategic in nature, therefore, a carefully-crafted strategy will help build a brand as compared to digital advertising that will only give a slight push to sales or brand awareness.

Digital advertising is sales-focused while digital marketing is focused on audience psychology

When you run a search PPC campaign or a banner ad campaign, the purpose is to send traffic to your landing page and collect leads, right?

Digital marketing on the otherhand is not always intended to drive sales. Though the ultimate objective is to increase sales and maximise revenue, especially with personalised message, but the path that is used to achieve this objective is fairly different.

For instance, you have to conduct market research to understand your target audience and to figure out the demand for your product. Similarly, when you write and publish a blog post, the purpose is to build a relationship with your readers.

This is what makes digital marketing audience psychology-focused.

The first step of the digital marketing process is to understand your target audience and create buyer personas. This cannot be achieved by understanding audience psychology.

Again, digital marketing takes into account the entire target audience by developing buyer personas — while digital advertising only focuses a specific segment of the target market that can be reached via any form of ad.

The similarities between digital advertising and digital marketing

Despite all the differences discussed above, there are quite a few similarities between the two.

The ultimate goal is to increase revenue

The objective of digital advertising is to boost sales in short-term while the objective of digital marketing is to boost sales in long-term. The approach used is different but the ultimate goal is to increase revenue.

Businesses exist to earn revenue.

The approach to increasing revenue by generating sales is different. In the case of digital advertising, ads are used to drive instant sales. This results in instant sales and revenue as it happened with Jordan Schaffel who ran a PPC campaign for one hour. He spent $243 and earned $70K in sales.

It was instant sales and the ROI was amazing. Jordan says:

“No other media purchase could ever provide this type of ROI, not print, not mail, not TV…nothing!”

Sure, no media beats digital advertising.

Not even digital marketing.

Digital marketing is time-consuming and you need to set clear goals to achieve great results. It doesn’t focus on short-term sales rather the idea is to focus on business growth by focusing on building customer relationships.

Cisco created a social media listening centre that helps them reap $1.5 million in pure benefits every year. They have reduced agency costs and the process has been working awesome for them.

Digital marketing ROI is consistent and huge as compared to that of digital advertising. Though, it may take some time before you start to see results.Digital advertising and digital marketing are linked

Digital advertising can’t be done in isolation. The data for running an advertising campaign is provided by the digital marketing strategy such as buyer personas, campaign objective, landing page, lead magnet, core product, conversion funnel, etc.

Since digital advertising is part of the overall marketing, therefore, it has to be linked to the strategy in some way.

Digital marketing can exist without digital advertising. For instance, you can stick to content marketing and SEO for reaching your target audience. In this case, you’ll not have a digital advertising campaign but the marketing campaign will continue to work.