Until the internet came along, most businesses relied on adverts to market their products and services. It’s only in recent years that content marketing has become popular. Modern businesses can often benefit from creating both content and adverts. But just what is the difference between the two?

Content and adverts can sometimes take the same form such as social media posts or videos, however they tend to have very different goals and approaches. This post explains these differences and how to make effective content and adverts.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is typically used to inform customers of things that they are already interested in. Unlike adverts, content typically does not attempt to interrupt people from other activities. In fact, in most cases, people take their own time out to consume content. The key is to educate or entertain and build a relationship of trust. Types of marketing content include:

  • Blog posts
  • Website product descriptions
  • Case studies
  • Informational videos
  • E-books
  • Infographics
  • Informational/entertaining social media posts

What Is Advertising?

Advertisements are used to communicate a message to as many people as possible. In most cases, people do not go looking for adverts – instead they will usually be interrupted by an advert during another activity. Adverts therefore need to be more attention-grabbing and direct than regular content. Types of adverts include:

  • Display ads
  • Search ads
  • Promotional videos
  • Billboards/posters
  • Flyers
  • Radio adverts
  • Promotional social media posts

Content Vs Adverts: The Key Differences

When creating content or an advert, it’s important to understand the differences. These are explained below.

Luring Customers vs Hunting Out Customers

Content is designed to lure customers to it. It is designed to answer questions and satisfy curiosities that your consumers may already have. You should only place content on platforms that you own such as your website, your social media pages and YouTube channel.

Adverts contrastingly are used to hunt out the customer. They are more commonly found on third-party platforms such as other websites, radio channels or search engines. Good advert targeting involves working out where your customers are likely to be rather than placing them anywhere – for example, if your audience is young people, you should display a poster somewhere where young people are likely to hang out.

Informational vs Promotional

Content is largely informational. While they should relate to your industry, they don’t necessarily have to mention your product at all. The aim is to build a relationship of trust rather than persuading them to buy anything.

Adverts on the other hand are solely promotional. They should be ultimately oriented around your product or service and should aim to be persuasive.

Detail vs Highlights

Because content is consumed in a person’s own time, you have the option of making it more detailed. Attention-grabbing text and images is still important, however you’re able to make it longer and more comprehensive – a 2000 word deep-dive blog post or a 5 minute behind-the-scenes video are each acceptable and may even increase conversions compared to shorter content.

Adverts on the other hand should be short and concise as possible, delivering only the most important highlights. Because adverts typically interrupt other tasks, you usually only have seconds to get your point across. Billboards for example are typically only 20% text, relying on imagery to communicate a story or information within 5 seconds. The optimum video advert meanwhile should be no longer than 15 seconds and should be frontloaded with bold imagery or a question that hooks people.

Keywords vs Buzzwords

Another big difference is the reliance on keywords and buzzwords. Many forms of content are online and require consumers to search for them using keywords, so they therefore need to be keyword-rich. This is very important with text-heavy content such as blog posts and case studies – it’s often worth working with an SEO agency to implement the right keywords. Keywords can also be used in YouTube titles and video descriptions. With social media posts, hashtags can play the role of keywords.

Advert is meanwhile more reliant on buzzwords – terms that consumers may not search for but that will grab people’s attention. Words like ‘click’, ‘free’ and ‘learn’ are all great examples of this. Check out this guide to advertising power words for more examples.

Long Term vs Short Term

Content is designed to convert customers steadily over a long period. While you can create content centered around hot button topics, the most effective content is the type of content that attracts consumers over a period of months or years. Consistently creating content is therefore important for maintaining a steady flow of customers.

Adverts are typically part of short term campaigns. They are much more effective at gaining lots of leads in a short period of time. Adverts are therefore better to use during periods where you may need a quick boost in customers. They can be more heavily centered around current trends.