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Digital Advertising and Digital Marketing – Are They the Same Thing?


In an offline setting, the terms marketing and advertising have distinct definitions that separate the two from each other. However, in the digital context, the two terms are often used interchangeably. So, are they really different from each other, or is it just a matter of to-may-to vs. to-mah-to?

Let’s do a deep dive and understand what the two terms mean, how they’re interrelated, and how they’re different from each other.

Digital advertising

As the name suggests, digital advertising is used to ‘advertise’ your business in a digital format. So, any ad you see online for any business, regardless of whether the business itself is an online or offline one, it’s a form of digital advertising. It’s also sometimes called internet marketing, online advertising, web advertising, or other similar terms.

While it can be confusing to know what exactly someone means when you hear one of these various terms, the kind of activity they talk about can help you understand if they’re talking about digital advertising or something else.

There are three main types of digital advertising.

Pay Per Click ads

Pay Per Click ads, often shortened to PPC ads, is a form of paid online advertisements. These are the ads you can find in your web search results. For example, you might find the website of a popular brand at the top of your search results if you search for ‘sports shoes.’ The word ‘Ad’ is usually shown next to the website links to indicate that it’s a paid promotion of the brand.

As the name suggests, companies pay for the ad each time someone clicks on it and visits their website. You won’t have to pay unless the ad is clicked. All major search engines have their PPC solutions, such as Google Adwords, Bing Ads, etc.

Display ads

These are the ads that are ‘displayed’ on your screen.

For example, the banners, pop-ups, or videos you can find at the beginning, end, or in the middle of the website you’re using. On a computer, you might find a mini video window at one corner or side of the screen or large banners in the middle of blog posts. On mobile platforms, these banners might pop up while you’re scrolling through the website.

Most major e-commerce platforms, such as eBay, invest heavily in display ads.

Social media ads

These are the ads you come across while scrolling through any of the popular social media platforms. They can be in the form of images or videos and will usually take you to the company’s website or target landing page when you click on them.

All these forms of digital advertising can be used individually or together, depending entirely on your business’s marketing strategy. Which brings us to the next point – how is digital marketing different from digital advertising?

Digital marketing

Digital marketing services include all the marketing efforts a company makes to showcase, promote, and grow its business. While digital advertising may be a marketing activity on its own, it falls under the comprehensive umbrella of digital marketing.

Digital marketing has six main categories:

  1. Content Marketing
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. Digital Advertising
  4. Social Media Marketing
  5. Affiliate Marketing
  6. Mobile and email marketing

While digital advertising is broad, digital marketing is more targeted and customer-focused. Ads are loosely targeted around the key terms that potential customers may search for.

Marketing, on the other hand, is a comprehensive strategy that focuses on all the six aspects mentioned above. A company uses the four Ps of marketing – product, price, promotion, and place – to determine its marketing strategy and employs it across all marketing and advertising channels.

Latest digital marketing trends incline towards an increasing focus on content marketing, where content is used in various formats – text, image, video, and audio – to reach a target audience.

For example, companies may publish thought leadership articles to promote their brand or publish books written by their CEOs or other high-authority personnel. They may upload video interviews with these personnel or audio interviews in the form of podcasts. And they can use images across all social media marketing efforts.

All this content will be focused on a target audience and will talk about the product or service the company wants to promote.


Digital advertising and marketing are indeed different from each other while being interrelated. Digital advertising is a part of a company’s overall digital marketing strategy, which may extend into any or all of the six areas of marketing specified above.

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