The discussion began innocently enough. One of the participants in our group of marketing professionals asked a somewhat theoretical question: “Is advertising the same as marketing?” As members of our group are prone to do, we began parsing the question. One person asked, “Which serves what purpose? Another, “Which is a subset of the other?” And yet another asked, “Which came first?” Then there was the most interesting question of all, “Does it make any difference?” The answer, it turns out, is that advertising and marketing are quite different.

Steve, the detail oriented member of our group, did some quick digging and discovered that the word “advertising” first appeared in print in a Horace Greeley article back in 1850. “Marketing,” it turns out, first appeared in a textbook published in the U.S. some 64 years later in 1914.

Carol, another member of the group, was certain that advertising is a subset of marketing, adding that marketing is “every public exposure of your business. Your letterhead, your signage, the way you answer the phone,” while “advertising is the call to action.” Added Carol, “Marketing comes first. Before you plunk a dollar down on advertising, you have your logo in place and (your business) ready to open.”

Someone then suggested that marketing is an umbrella term that covers advertising, as well as special events, public relations, market research, along with social media and everything else the Internet has brought us in recent years… and that the proper name for all of these various activities and forms of media would be more appropriate if called “marketing communications,” since communicating is at the core of what marketers do.

Michael, the deep thinker in the group, suggested that marketing and marketing communications are totally different things, that marketing communications – including advertising – is just one part of marketing. To him, marketing involves “… understanding the consumer and customer at a deep level – needs, habits, practices, beliefs, values, attitudes, awareness, etc.” He also suggested that marketing is responsible for “ensuring that the brand/product offering truly delivers (what) the consumers’ need.”

Michael sees advertising as just one part of marketing communications which he also sees as just one part of marketing. To him, marketing should include “such elements as pricing strategy, product development, sales and distribution.”

Gary, on the other hand, contributed a more pragmatic point of view. “I see them (advertising and marketing) as equally important subsets of the business and the client or customer relationship and bonding process. Advertising makes the announcements and shares the glad tidings. Marketing sends out the invites, lays on the food and drink, greets the guests, makes sure everyone has a swell time, and sends out the handwritten Thank You cards.

After hearing those various opinions shared among a group of marketing pros, it seems obvious that advertising and marketing are inseparably related, but that they’re two very different ways to approach new and potential buyers of your product, service or cause.