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What is the Difference between Advertising and Promotion?

Advertising is a long-term approach, which may involve things like ads in various forms of media.
Promotions, such as sales, are geared toward the short-term gain.
Coupons are an example of promotion.
Advertising may include hiring marketing teams to spread the word about a product.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2014
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Advertising and promotion are two related marketing tools, both widely used in the modern world. At first glance, it may be difficult to understand what exactly the difference between them is, since they both use many of the same techniques, and apply them for very similar ends. A few things differentiate one from the other, however, including the scope of time involved, overall cost, impact on sales, the purpose, and what kind of companies the technique is suitable for.

Both advertising and promotion are types of marketing, involved in getting information about a product out to the buying public. Advertising is usually undertaken by mid- to large-level firms, which come up with cohesive messages that help strengthen the brand and aim to build long-term sales. It includes things like buying radio or television spots, printing up advertisements in regional or national papers, hiring guerrilla marketing teams to spread the word about the product, or billboard or poster campaigns.

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Advertising has as its goal not only an increase in sales in the short- to mid-term, but also a strengthening of the brand and image of the company and products, to build long-term sales and consumer loyalty. Advertising is a costly endeavor, and it can be months or even years before results are seen from a successful ad campaign. As a result, measuring sales directly from advertising can be difficult, although overall trends will of course be noticeable. Advertising is, as a result of its long-term agenda and high cost, best suited for large or larger medium-sized companies, which have the budget for comprehensive campaigns and a higher interest in building long-term sales.

Promotion, on the other hand, is a more short-term strategy. Although brand-building may occur as a result of promotions, it is not the point. The only real purpose of such a campaign is to build sales in the short term, either to move a company back into the black, to build capital reserves for expansion, or as a long-term strategy of constant promotional pushes to reach sales goals. Promotions include things like two-for-one specials, coupons in the local or regional paper, free samples, or special in-store events.

Because promotions are so easy to set up, and tend to be created for short-term gains, they are well-suited to small- or medium-sized companies. Although ad agencies may come up with promotional campaigns as part of a larger ad campaign, they are the sort of thing that even a one-person company can put together to help drive sales. This is not to say that larger companies don’t use promotions, of course, and many rely heavily on them in tandem with larger regional or national ad campaigns. Coupons, heavily discounted products, and value-added services like technical support are all examples of promotions that might be used by national chains.

There is, of course, a great deal of overlap between advertising and promotion. The two disciplines feed and support one another, and healthy ad campaigns often rely on promotions and visa versa. For example, a company may offer a two-for-one coupon on a product for two weeks before Christmas, with this promotion expected to bring in more business. For months before hand, the same company would likely have an ad campaign pushing that same product, and the campaign would continue for months after the promotion. The promotion, in this case, serves to bring a surge of interest in at a specific time during the campaign, helping to make it more effective.

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Discuss this Article

seag47
Post 17

@healthy4life – That is a good idea, especially for people who don't have a large budget for advertising. I think that two for one coupons get a lot more attention than an ad in a local paper, anyway.

I think it's usually best to have both an advertising and promotion strategy, though. You don't want to go totally unnoticed by people who actually do pay attention to ads.

If you can afford to buy some online ad space, you should do it. The best site to place your ads depends on what you are offering, but I think that no matter the service, a local television station's website is an excellent place to advertise. People from the area are always checking the site for news and weather forecasts, and they can't help but see your ad.

healthy4life
Post 16

I have a friend who owns a beauty salon with just one other hairdresser. They focus a lot more on short-term promotion than on advertising in the local paper or on the radio.

Every now and then, they will run an ad somewhere, but the majority of their focus is on promotion. They use social media, a client email list, and fliers up around town to get the word out about special deals.

They sometimes have deals where you can buy one haircut and get the second one free for a friend. This is a good way to introduce new customers to the business, and if they like the haircut, they will become repeat paying customers.

lighth0se33
Post 15

I've always thought of promotion more as a verb and advertising more as a noun. Promotion always seemed to be more about taking certain actions, while I associate advertising with actual physical ads.

Promoting involves offering coupons and discounts. Advertising involves having a designer make up an ad that can be seen either online, on TV, or in a newspaper.

kylee07drg
Post 14

This article was a great introduction to advertising and promotion. I will be studying marketing in college next fall, and it was great to get an understanding of these two terms before starting classes.

hazelsan
Post 10

thanks a lot for such a good article.

anon114830
Post 7

Clearly explained. Thanks.

anon112061
Post 6

I have been struggling with the two concepts. This is the first time I feel comfortable with these two concepts.

Thank you

anon93736
Post 4

Thank you! I love it! It couldn't be more clear to understand.

anon80892
Post 3

awesome.

anon44720
Post 2

this site is very helpful. it really answers your question. Thanks!

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