“Advertising Is Paid For, Publicity Is Prayed For”

Igniting a spark with PR

Many people in my family and outside of work use the terms marketing, advertising, and publicity interchangeably, to the point of sounding redundant.

The truth is, marketing is a strategy, while advertising and public relations are tactics. Although both tactics fall under the marketing umbrella and have similar end goals, there is a clear distinction between them.

“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for,” said Helen Woodward, the first female advertising executive in the United States, in 1938.

Mechanics of Marketing

You can’t win a race against strong competition without a powerful marketing engine fueled by thoughtful tactics.

Advertising and public relations are the spark plugs that ignite and transform your strategies into energy, propelling your products or services to the top of the heap.

Paid vs Earned Media

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, press outlets are under more pressure than ever to capture consumers’ immediate attention, and your pitch is at the mercy of their perspective.

Simply put, publicity is media that is earned rather than purchased (aka “free”) and advertising is media that is paid for monetarily.

Unlike PR, with paid media, you have complete control over your message and its placement. When you buy a billboard ad, you know exactly what it will say (and not say) and when and where it will appear.

The audience reach is less predictable with publicity. You can pitch a story all day long in earned media (also known as “PR”), but no placement is ever guaranteed. The press outlets decide when, if, and how the story will be published. One would think that he media would base their decision on your PR coverage solely on the merits of the story, pitch, and information quality, but this is not the case.

Other factors, such as “citizen journalists,” social media, new technologies and trends, can all play a role. This means that communications must be relevant, accurate, and succinct in order to receive the attention they deserve.



You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust the sails.

Even the best-laid plans can be derailed by an unexpected force. Enter COVID-19.

In 2020, the entertainment industry was hit incredibly hard the unanticipated impact Covid-19 would have on box office revenues.

Major studios were suddenly confronted with the prospect of significant ad spend penalties if their films were not released within the original contracted time frames for ad placements.

Mall parking lots and people’s own backyards were transformed into makeshift drive-in theaters, and the growth of streaming platforms accelerated at an alarming rate.

Consumers started fleeing to product on Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms that were staking their claims in the arena.

Then, studios begin experimenting with new film distribution models. Warner Bros. made one of the most seismic shifts in modern entertainment in December 2020. To compensate for the disruption to their marketing and film release schedule, WarnerMedia announced that their entire 2021 movie slate, including major films such as Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Matrix 4, would be released on the same day in theaters and on their new HBO Max Ad-Free streaming service. The hybrid model was a strategic response to the ongoing global pandemic, and it signaled a significant marketing investment in HBO Max.

It also threw talent agents, movie theaters, and the market into disarray. Warner Bros. quickly revved up their marketing engine and implemented new paid media ad plans. PR shifted into high gear with traditional and social media to raise awareness of the customer-focused benefits and deflect negative reactions.

While theater revenues were significantly lower than expected, the dual window strategy saved them millions of dollars in penalties, increased subscriptions for their new HBO streaming model, and, most importantly, satisfied their customers’ demands.

The Warner Bros. scenario is just one example of how important marketing, advertising, and public relations can help an industry pivot during times of rapid change.

While all of these areas can help each other in an integrated marketing strategy, understanding the differences can make or break a company’s long-term success. And no worries, if you are looking to get some professional help you spark the attention of your target  audience, look no further! Click on the button below to learn more.

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