Differences between Advertising and Propaganda: Concepts and Keys

The Differences between advertising and propaganda Are notorious, however are two concepts that are often confused. Basically, while advertising is used when wanting to sell something, for commercial purposes; Propaganda seeks to implant opinions, ideas or beliefs, to change the public's opinion for a particular purpose.

Although in dictionaries, the definitions of both words may be similar, their main difference lies in the intention and motivation of their use. Both concepts refer to spreading information and thereby to influence others.

The differences between advertising and propaganda

Specific concepts

The main difference between advertising and propaganda is that propaganda is a set of messages designed with the intention of influencing the opinions and ideas of a large number of people.

On the other hand, advertising is simply advertisements of any commercial activity of any kind, intended to raise the public interest in something and attract them to a particular product or service.

While advertising can be done to promote a new product, to promote pollution reduction, to highlight some important accomplishment of an employee within a company, to publicize new policies of any kind - governmental, social, health - or increase sales ; The propaganda aims to influence the masses to adopt some concept or idea, which generates a change in their behavior and their way of seeing the world. This is why propaganda is used more specifically in the political arena.

Usually, propaganda has been used in a bad way, trying to damage the objectives or projects opposed to the cause of propaganda, be they an organization, a political party or an individual person.

The dissemination of propaganda ideas is not always based on a true basis, and the delivery of false information or altering the facts to make them appear even worse, or better; Are part of the strategies that are often used in advertising.

A classic example of propaganda is a political campaign with ads and speeches that are designed to attack the opponent.

On the other hand, advertising is designed to present information that is true - properties of a product, advantages and uses - but in a very positive way. Advertising is considered one of the tools of public relations.

Just as in the case of a celebrity who performs an interview or is invited to different programs to promote a new movie, work, book, album, or any element; Advertising is the same form of public relations but in relation to a product, a prevention campaign, a new system to use, to mention some uses.


Advertising is specifically the type of promotion that uses the PR effect in a story, which is delivered free of charge to the mass media.

The main purpose of advertising is not sales promotion, but the creation of an image through the comments of independent publishers or sources.

Advertisers can control the content of the story, but not their positioning or their interpretation by the media.

Advertising, unlike advertising, is not paid for. It is a form of communication that is created to generate positive reception in audiences, but in which the company has no control over when the messages will be broadcast, their frequency, the broadcast time and the means that will receive it.

Advertising is mainly done through the mass media such as newspapers, magazines, television channels and radios. An advertising campaign is not repeated, it is only made and disseminated once.

The advertising of a company has greater credibility and confidence on the part of the audiences because it is diffused by different means to the same companies or creators of the advertising campaigns.

Its presentation is in the form of news or reports, very different from how the advertising campaigns are presented.

Messages delivered through advertising are well received and understood by the audience. They generate a reaction in the public, are useful for people and have an important social meaning.

An example of successful advertising that we find throughout history is for example when John Lennon and Yoko Ono invited the press and friends to their honeymoon to deliver a message against the Vietnam War.

They even recorded the song"Give Peace a Chance"in Montreal, which became a hymn for those protesting this military conflict.


Propaganda is defined as information, especially based on biased opinions and confusing information, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Propaganda is associated with psychological mechanisms for influencing and altering the opinion and attitudes of the population towards a specific cause, position or political agenda.

With this, the propaganda would achieve a consensus in the society of a set of beliefs and thought patterns. That is why, today, propaganda is associated with manipulation, as it delivers information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience, then a group and then an agenda.

One could say that propaganda"lies by omission", as it only presents selected facts and taken out of context to foster a particular perception.

You can also use a language and message loaded with emotionality, which prevents people from having a rational response to the information being presented.

Propaganda is associated with materials prepared by certain governments, but also activist groups and companies can produce propaganda.

However, propaganda historically did not have this malicious meaning it has today. It was a descriptive term of a style of diffusion of messages and elements that were created to deliver them like pamphlets, paintings, caricatures, posters and, as the technology was advancing, were used the radios, the television shows, the films and now, the Internet.

In fact, propaganda is a Latin term meaning"what is propagated." It was a word derived from the Catholic Church in 1622, with the beginning of the activities of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide (Congregation to propagate the faith) or simply"Propaganda." Its objective was to expand the Catholic faith in other non-Catholic countries.

At the end of the year 1790, the word propaganda began to be used in secular activities. In the 19th century, propaganda began to acquire its pejorative and negative character, when it began to be used in political areas.

Historically, different forms of propaganda have been used, from Ancient History in Roman civil wars, where Octavian and Mark Antony blamed each other for their incompetence, alcoholism, wasting, and other public slander.

During the time of the Reformation, with the emergence of the printing press, thoughts, ideas and doctrines were more accessible to the masses through newspapers, in ways that had never been known before. The same happened in the revolution of the American colonies, that they obtained an important network of newspapers specialized in benefits for the patriots.

Thus began the modern phenomenon of propaganda, through the creation of literary and political societies, which actively informed the mass media in the nineteenth century. Propaganda was widely used during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, as were the abolitionists in England and the United States when the abolition of slavery was achieved.

Nevertheless, the first organized scale of governmental propaganda occurred with the First World War. After that, in Germany, Adolf Hitler used British propaganda techniques to influence the entire population of his country, using propaganda as a weapon of war during World War II.

With the emergence of animated films, the propaganda reached other levels, coming directly to thrill the audience. This technique was used during the Russian Revolution, World War II, in the United States producing war films and of course in Hitler's Nazi regime to engage all its people in relation to the acts they were performing.

Propaganda was also a weapon during the Cold War. The Soviet Union made films, television series, radio programs and books that influenced the opinions of the people.

The propaganda has used techniques that have transversally been used in different areas: political, military, religious and educational, to name a few. Therefore, it has been classified into seven different types:

  • Transfer: technique that removes the authority, sanction and prestige of something to cause disapproval and rejection.
  • Plain Folks: where the subject presents himself as an ordinary person who can understand the concerns of the audience and gives them the feeling of being one more, to gain their trust and credibility.
  • Popular cause: where the audience feels they must follow the program that will ultimately benefit everyone.
  • Testimonial: a person respected or rejected by the public says that a certain belief or product is good or bad.
  • Tag: is to give a bad name to a particular fact, causing the audience to reject or condemn without having examined the background.
  • Emotional Sentences (Glittering Generality): is the use of phrases that are associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs. This attracts the general approval of the audience. It is the technique most used by politicians with terms like democracy, socialism, humanism, etc.
  • Selection of letters: In this strategy the worst attributes and conditions of a fact or product, whether false or true, are selected to give the audience the worst possible version of that element and thus condition it.


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  2. Difference between Advertising and Publicity. Recovered from yourarticlelibrary.com
  3. Propaganda vs Publicity. What's the difference? Retrieved from the-difference-between.com.
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  6. 100 Greatest Publicity Stunts of All Time. Retrieved from bitesizepr.com.
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