Advertising vs Content. What’s the difference?

By Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder The BAM Connection, Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 11.14.01 AM    Ask this question to smart marketing people anywhere and it’s likely you will first get dumbstruck looks, followed by hmms and haws, then some elusive response that tells you they don’t know the answer, and have never really even thought about it. Responses like, “if it goes viral then it’s content.” No, that could just be a good “ad” that many people chose to watch online. Or my personal favorite, “consumers don’t name and separate out like that, they just like what they like.” Yes, but marketers do, and being able to separate out and define “content” vs “advertising” is critically important when laying out your marketing mix.

Let me be very clear: this is our answer at The BAM. Agree, disagree. Love it, hate it. At least we have a definition. Here goes.


Communication that sells the brand by touting all its features, attributes and benefits. The focus and interest are all around the brand. It is designed more for people currently in the market to purchase the product or service to help transact them now.


Communication that sells the brand with engaging, tangentially-related topics, stories and education. The focus and interest go beyond the brand, but connect back to it. It is designed more for people NOT currently in the market to purchase the product or service to help attract them to a brand they otherwise might have ignored, and sell them at some point down the road.

PLEASE NOTICE both say “communication that sells…” that’s because they both should do that. Clearly advertising should sell, but so should Content. No CMO is giving you millions of dollars to entertain people, and not sell anything. If they are, they will not have their job for very long.

It is old-school habit to believe everything must be an ad. It is new-school naïveté to feel that everything should be content. There are two ways to stop consumers. For people actually in the market, provocative ads do it. I am interested in buying. Get to it now. For people not in the market now, show me some engaging content that makes me pay attention so I consider your product at some later date. Both work.

Here is the simple truth: Everything is an ad for something. It can be hard sell, it can be soft sell, but one thing I guarantee you, when it comes to CMOs with their multi-million dollar budgets and board of Directors, it will never be “no sell.”