Understand the 5 most important differences between advertising and propaganda with historical examples

By May 16, 2020No Comments

In this article we will address a profound topic of great importance for those who want to become marketing specialists. A subject that will test your ability to perceive subtleties: the difference between Advertising and Propaganda.

We often think that advertising and propaganda are synonymous and even use the terms interchangeably.

What if we told you it wasnt? And if we were to say, for example, that a company does not have the capacity to advertise, what would you say?

You were curious, werent you? Then, you are in the right place because today – metaphorically speaking – we are going to destroy all those stiff paradigms! Get ready to enter another level of dialogue.

Are there similarities between Advertising and Propaganda?

Obviously, if theyre confused, its because they have some resemblance. Both of them:

They work with communication

They communicate, but in a different way. Advertising communicates truths, certainties and values with the aim of making them become common sense, while advertising informs about a product that solves a problem of your daily life.

Need disclosure

They are carried in the different media formats.

They use artistic forms to transmit concepts

They use symbols, creative texts, images, films and music. Everything that is extra ordinary and produces a certain charm is used by them.

They make strategies

They are carefully planned in order to achieve their goals.

The 5 main differences between Advertising and Propaganda

Lets now turn to the differences between these two terms. Keep reading!


To begin with, there is a difference in what each word means.


It comes from “to propagate” which means to disseminate and reproduce, in this case a system of ideas .

Propaganda was born from the need to propagate ideas and multiply them, without these ideas necessarily being a function of a product . They are generally linked to political, religious or military matters, as we will see later on.


Advertising, on the other hand, is much more associated with the world of Marketing , since in this field we work with the concept of target audience.

As time went by, the word “advertising” became more and more related to the fact of making public information or an offer of a product to a certain public, i.e. advertising.

2. Objectives

The goal is what you want to achieve, in the case of advertising is to install a truth, while that of advertising is to sell a product.

Propaganda creates ideological frameworks, it acts in the field of thought and consequently modifies our behaviour. Advertising, on the other hand, uses an already existing ideological framework to provide a solution to a problem typical of that lifestyle.

Example: the theory of the flat earth and the cruise around the world

The case of this narrative, which is so fashionable, is a good way of illustrating the difference in objectives between advertising and propaganda.

It could be pigeonholed into politics and the most interesting thing is that it is not born from power, but from a group of people who, according to them, want to spread a new perception to free us from a deception of which the whole of society is a victim.

They do not sell a product or a lifestyle, but through materials, meetings and dialogues, they try to gain followers so that the idea can be reproduced.

At the same time, in the case of the cruise, he only wants to make an offer so that those interested know that there are tickets for sale and can make a trip around the world for a certain value (and, at the same time, confirm what we all know, that the Earth is spherical).

3. Dimension

This is where we explain why a company cannot make propaganda , but publicity, because a company not only does not have the objective of changing the ideological context in which it carries out its business, but it also does not have the necessary structure for that.

For the propaganda to work, we must use all available means of dissemination.

Ill give you an example. Theres a worldwide trend to include insects in our diet.

No matter how much we hire the best advertising company in the world, it will be difficult for them to make us change our habits so drastically.

However, if we place it in the perspective of a change of perception to fight malnutrition and hunger in the world carried out by the UN, including the subject in the educational programs and using the national communication chain of each country, it is more likely that we will accept that “truth” with time.

This requires an investment in disclosure that is on the scale of countries, not companies. That is why the flat Earth theory, fortunately, is no more than a nice conspiracy theory.

4. Nature

The nature of advertising is to modify a system of ideas in force and change it for another one, whereas the nature of advertising is to provoke an action in the receiver.

Examples: Uncle Sam and Camel cigarettes

The famous image of Uncle Sam is one of the most famous advertisements in existence. What truth did he want to spread among his recipients? Your country needs you!

Going to war is not a product, it has no benefit, for them to enlist voluntarily it was necessary to install a truth of patriotic transcendence.

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