How Content Marketing Differs from Advertising

How Content Marketing Differs from Advertising

Copywriting & Content NEWS: Content Marketing NEWS: Digital Marketing

What is content marketing? Is it the same as advertising?

The answer is fluid and there are different definitions. I like what Zara Curtis, the Director of Content for IAG, has said about it; that content marketing is not advertising because advertising is about explaining your product or service in order to sell it, whereas content marketing is about telling stories to get people interested in your brand or business.

Content marketing is defined by Google’s “Instant Answers” as a form of marketing through the creation and sharing of videos, blogs, and social media posts, which does not explicitly aim to sell but its goal is to stimulate interest in a brand.

Most definitions agree that content marketing is not advertising. But here’s a more in-depth definition from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI): Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content as a way to strategically entice and maintain a target market — and, ultimately, to direct client action in a way that is profitable for the business.

CMI’s definition doesn’t differentiate between the top funnel and lower funnel content, and it talks about “distribution.” Distribution ties into three forms of media: paid, earned and owned. For example, there are three ways to accomplish content distribution.

  • Owned media – emailing your client list
  • Paid media – native advertising as a way to enhance your content

(There’s also “earned” media, which has to do with reaching out to influencers to cover your content.)

Deciding when to focus on your own “owned” media vs. when and how to spend money is an important strategic decision for every business. Here’s a comparison; for every one dollar, the average television ad executive spends on creation they spend five dollars on distribution. On the other hand, the average content marketer spends the opposite. So content marketing is all about telling stories but in a way that attracts the audience you want on a specific platform at the right time, and in a strategic way.

So, if content marketers budgeted for distribution in the same way that television advertising executives do, then content marketing can be considered advertising. However, if brands only emailed their list, then content marketing is not advertising. Of course, in today’s digital world content marketers are quite sophisticated and employ all three forms of media (including “earned” influencer media) as a way to distribute and strategically boost sales.

While content marketing is not the exact same thing as advertising, advertising should always be a vital part of content marketing because content marketing is a fantastic way for a brand to get their content out to a broader audience to truly scale distribution strategically.

If you’re looking to grow and scale your business through content marketing don’t hesitate to reach out to Barker Social and see how we can create a content strategy that will get your business to the next level.


Todd Foster

As a dedicated Digital Marketing Strategist at Barker Social, I am passionate about helping businesses unlock their full potential online. With a focus on results-driven strategies, I aim to deliver measurable success for our clients.