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Difference Between Advertising and PR

display-advertisingAdvertising vs PR

Advertising is any message put up in any medium, and paid for by a known entity. PR was usually understood to be free publicity by goodwill, word of mouth, hype or media buzz. Nowadays, that does exist, but there is also paid PR space now sold in media.

Someone once said that advertising is the only truth in media, because at the end of each ad there is someone claiming responsibility for that product, service or idea. In this way, PR could be considered a dangerous weapon for deception and false publicity, as the person who wants any article or news published will not be visible. There are those who can read between the lines, and understand where an action must have started by looking at the chain of events, but most people just believe what is ‘written in the newspaper’. Ads get mostly very little respect. In fact, it is only since the creative revolution of the 60’s, that Admen have started to get some respect. Otherwise, in the olden times, there was a joke that said: “Don’t tell my mother that I am employed in advertising, she thinks I have a good job at a prostitution den’, and so advertising people came to be looked upon with suspicion. This was a result of the over-exaggerated advertising during the industrial and post war years.

Advertising is always paid for, whereas PR could be paid-for or can be free. There is always an advertiser visible in advertising. PR is invisible advertising. Advertising consists of media like TV, cinema, hoardings, print, posters, etc. PR consists of news events, press conferences, press kits, press releases, paid-for press articles, as well as image and crisis management.

PR executives need to network and maintain contacts with the important people, as well anybody who is just about anybody. They need to juggle people and get things done. Advertising executives are a bit like this too, but there are many variations of the advertising exec ‘“ a) the boss types, big suits, b) the suits, they can bend over for a client, c) the lazy creative, d) the geeky media folk, and e) the usual HR and management departments.

Advertising budgets for big brands are significantly high. An ad campaign may cost millions annually, but similarly effective PR may only cost thousands. On the other hand, some super niche brands may do extravagant spending on any event, brand, or personality, by bringing in a star celeb for endorsement, or host a sensational event. They may spend millions for only a handful of such events, and nothing for paid advertising at all. Similarly, small companies may opt for little expenditures on PR that get them similar mileage, as would ten times more advertising expenditure.


1. Advertising is a paid-for medium, while PR can also be for free.

2. The budget for advertising can run very high, while for PR it may be just a couple of thousands.

3. The PR executives have to maintain a huge social network, which is not the case with advertising.

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