What is the difference between advertising and propaganda?

Advertising and propaganda are two words that are commonly used interchangeably and as synonyms, but the truth is that they are two different activities. The advertising and propaganda objectives are different, so one action should not be confused with the other. It is important to know what each term refers to in order to use them with property and that is why in a How we want to explain what the difference between advertising and propaganda is.


Advertising means all actions aimed at disseminating a product or service with the aim of attracting buyers or users. Advertising is included within the 4 P”s of marketing and marketing mix, and its purpose is mainly commercial.

Thus, a large number of activities or techniques that aim to publicize the product or service and promote its consumption or sale are included in advertising:

  • Spots or TV ads
  • Radio advertising
  • Print ads in the press
  • Online advertising
  • Outdoor advertising (fences, canopies, public transport …)
  • Product place mentor product placement
  • Point of sale advertising
  • Branding
  • Sampling or product samples
  • Guerrilla Marketing Actions



On the other hand, propaganda encompasses actions that aim to capture followers or influence people”s attitudes, that is, it is expected to convince the public to adopt a certain attitude or adhere to a certain group or belief.

Propaganda is not linked to the commercial field but mostly to issues:

  • Policies:election campaign, recruitment of affiliates and supporters, etc.
  • Ideological:NGOs, associations, armed forces …
  • Religious:uptake of faithful to religions and sects

Institutional advertising should not be confused with propaganda, since these are messages that the Government of a country addresses to its citizens with the aim of promoting behaviors or values, informing about the rights and obligations of society, etc. This type of advertising is not intended for sale or contracting, but neither is any type of membership expected, but is used to establish communication between the public power and the public.


Differences between advertising and propaganda

Although in some countries the terms advertising and propaganda are used interchangeably and as synonyms, the truth is that it is not correct. And there are clear differences between the two:

  • The advertising campaigns or advertising or recruitment expect consumption of a good or service, propaganda or propaganda aim adherence to an ideology or a change of attitude.
  • The advertising is related to trade, the advertising basically political, ideological and religious.
  • While the goal of advertising is always to get a sale or contract, the purpose of propaganda is not necessarily linked to a direct monetary exchange.


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