Difference Between Advertising and Propaganda (With Table)

Advertising and Propaganda are two distinct and powerful tools used by the media to influence the mind of the general public. They are interrelated insofar as both of them emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a result of the rise of large scale production and some notable political events, especially the World Wars.

To attract public attention, both of them make extensive use of media (print and electronic) and technology and a variety of symbols. 

Advertising vs Propaganda

The main difference between Advertising and Propaganda is that the former is a practice or a technique used to gain the attention of general public towards a particular product or service and to persuade them to respond in a certain way. The information transmitted through advertisements are factual but biased towards the promotion of certain products or services.

Advertising refers to the techniques and practices used to bring out products, services, or causes to public attention to persuade them to think and respond in a certain way.

Propaganda, on the other hand, is defined as a systematic attempt to influence the minds and emotions of a target group to achieve a specific purpose. It is done by disseminating information that is often biased and manipulated.

The latter on the other hand involves distortion of information and manipulation of symbols to support a particular standpoint. The communication in Propaganda is one-directional and there is no need to prove that whether the information disseminated is true or not.


Comparison Table Between Advertising and Propaganda (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of Comparison




It is a technique of communication used by enterprises to attract the attention of the consumers towards their products or services.

It is described as the transmission of information that is distorted or manipulated to support a particular view or initiative.


To mould the preferences of the consumers in support of a particular product or service.

To mould the minds of the people in support of a particular idea or programme.


It is mainly used in the market arena to promote certain goods, services or causes.

It is used in all spheres of life-social, political and economic. But it is most prominently used in the political arena.

Information disseminated


Manipulated and distorted


It leads to an increase in sales and profits of enterprises.

It leads to the triumph of a particular idea or initiative over another.


What is Advertising?

It is a method of communication that is used to promote certain products, services or causes to persuade the people to respond to them in a particular way. It is one of the four keys of marketing and the nature of communication is persuasive and non- personal.

Advertisements were first used in the weekly newspapers of London in the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century, such advertisements were thriving. However, it was only in the nineteenth century that the first advertising agencies were established. They acted as a broker form making space in newspapers. By the early twentieth century, they were producing advertising messages including copies and artworks.

Advertisements are mainly backed by enterprises aspiring to publicize their commodities or services. However, they can also be used to disseminate public service messages to publicize causes, charities or political candidates.

Although fact-based, advertisements are designed in such a way so that they create an impression in the minds of the people and influence them to subscribe to the products or services that are being promoted. For example: a variety of symbols and striking graphic displays are used in advertisements to gain the attention of the people.

Some of the major mediums through which Advertising permeates the lives of the people include:

  1. Print Media: Includes Newspapers and Magazines.
  2. Broadcast Media: Includes Radio and Television.
  3. Secondary Media: Supports print and broadcast media e.g. posters and billboards.
  4. Social media: With the growing popularity of the internet, social media is seen as a major medium for advertising. For example: Google, Facebook etc.
  5. Product Placement: It refers to the practice of gaining exposure for products by featuring them in TV programmes and films.
  6. Direct Marketing: It involves the promotion of products or services by establishing individual contact with the potential consumers e.g. mails, messages, texts etc.

Advertising is distinguished from Personal Selling in terms of their differences in the type of communication. Unlike in Personal Selling, the message transmitted in Advertising is non-personal. That is to say, it is not targeted at a specific individual.

It also differs from Public Relations insofar as the content of the message disseminated in advertising is firmly controlled by its sponsors.

In many countries, advertising serves as a major source of income for the media through which it is done.


What is Propaganda?

It is simply defined as the dissemination of information that is often manipulated or distorted to gain the support of the people for a cause (often political) or a point of view.

 The origin of the term can be traced back to the seventeenth century. It was first given currency by a missionary organisation established by the Pope in 1622named Congregatio de Propaganda Fide i.e. Congregation for the Propaganda of the Faith –to refer to the transmission of its doctrines.

The term is often used with a negative connotation mainly because of its extensive use by the Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union to gather support for their ideas and programmes during the inter-war period of 1919 to 1939.

While disseminating information, Propagandists emphasize those elements of the information that supports their cause or view and de-emphasise those elements which do not back their views or cause. To garner support for their views, propagandists also transmit lies and misleading statements. This manipulative nature of the information transmitted by Propaganda distinguishes it from Advertising.

Propaganda is used in all spheres of life- social, economic and political. But it is most profound in the political arena.

Some of the major elements of Propaganda are as follows:

  1. Methods of Presentation: The art of presentation constitutes the heart of Propaganda as it is through the presentation that a lie or a half-truth can be transformed into truth and vice-versa.
  2. Techniques of Gaining Attention: After the presentation of a particular view, the next step is to gain the attention of the target audience. For that a variety of methods are used, such as radio, television, motion pictures, print media, conferences and internet and so on.
  3. Devices for Gaining Response: One of the major aims of Propaganda is to evoke a favourable response from the target audience. For that, a variety of symbols, images, sentimental and emotional appeals are used by the Propagandist.
  4. Methods of Gaining Acceptance: The ultimate goal of Propaganda is to gain acceptance among people so that the view, idea, cause or product becomes a part of the common sense of the people.

Main Differences Between Advertising and Propaganda

  1. Both the terms are somehow concerned with moulding the views and choices of the people in a certain direction and therefore are often confused with each other. But in reality, they are completely different from each other. The basic difference between Advertising and Propaganda is that the former is primarily related to the market arena while the latter is most prominently used in the political arena.
  2. The main intention of Advertising is to mould the preferences of the consumers and to persuade them to purchase a particular product or service. Propaganda, on the other hand, intends to mould the minds of the people and influence them to subscribe to a particular idea or initiative.
  3. The information transmitted through advertisements are biased towards a particular product or service but they are based on facts and bring forward all the aspects of that product. Conversely, Propaganda is all about distortion and manipulation of information to gather people’s support for a particular view or programme.
  4. Although both Advertising and Propaganda became popular in the early twentieth century, the former was a result of the emergence of mass- production. While the latter emerged as a result some important political events especially the World Wars.
  5. A good Advertisement enables an enterprise to earn more profits through increased sale. While a successful Propaganda results in the victory of a particular idea or programme over other contending ideas or programmes.



Advertising and Propaganda are often used interchangeably without taking into account the basic difference between them. This happens because the techniques used by them to support certain ideas or products are often similar.

But it is important to understand that although both of them use information as a tool for influencing the minds of the public, in case of Propaganda the information is mostly distorted and manipulated to suit the interest of the Propagandist. However, in Advertising, false and distorted information cannot be used as that would lead to the deterioration of the brand power of the Advertiser.


  1. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/484935/summary
  2. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=818812381907979;res=IELHSS
  3. https://uhpress.hawaii.edu/product/the-thought-war-japanese-imperial-propaganda/