Digital Advertising Agencies vs. Digital Marketing Agencies: What's the Difference?

Why Inbound Marketing Works for Hospitality

Digital Advertising Agencies vs. Digital Marketing Agencies: What’s the Difference?

There are many types of agency firms small businesses can partner with to grow their marketing and advertising reach. However, terms like “digital marketing agency,” “digital advertising agency,” “full-service agency” and “specialty agency” make it confusing as you’re trying to understand what firms offer the services you need.

As you’re considering the type of partnership you need for your business, consider these key differences between digital ad agencies and digital marketing agencies.

Defining marketing agencies vs. ad agencies

Before you dive into specifics, it’s important to understand the high-level difference between the role of an advertising agency and the role of a marketing agency.

In general, digital advertising agencies specialize in creating, buying and tracking digital advertising. This can include but is not limited to: banner and display ads, paid video ads, social media ads, search engine marketing, PPC, native advertising, IP retargeting and email marketing. If the agency also has traditional advertising services in-house, they may facilitate media creation and buying in print, billboard and outdoor, television and radio.

You can expect a digital marketing agency to offer content creation services, marketing strategy, inbound marketing, video production and even website and app development. More sophisticated digital marketing agencies will also offer the media buying and tracking services digital ad agencies offer.

Traditional vs. digital agencies

In this section, it’s worth noting the difference between traditional and digital agencies. Digital agencies are focused on all things web: social media, email, web design and development, SEO, etc. Traditional agencies or full service agencies have a wide variety of services. It could cover print, outdoor, radio and other non-digital outlets.

Specialty vs. full-service agencies

Specialty (sometimes called “boutique”) agencies are focused solely on specific service offerings or a specific industry niche. Examples include agencies that focus solely on digtial only services and strategy. Meanwhile, full-service agencies offer a non-specialist, wide range of support to their clients. Many small businesses may choose a full-service agency partner who can solve many problems for them. While others may look for a specialist that focuses on their specific business goals.

Digital marketing agencies offer strategy as a service

Perhaps the largest difference between digital ad and marketing agencies is the overall strategy offering. Digital marketing agencies are more likely to understand your entire business and how it works together - across brand, content, inbound and digital - while ad agencies will focus solely on your digital advertising presence.

If you’re looking for a partner that understands how marketing strategies and tactics can be used to meet business goals, a marketing agency may be right for you.

Digital marketing agencies are practitioners

To take the above point one step further, digital marketing agencies will be able to work with you across your entire suite of marketing projects. While a digital ad agency will focus on your paid ad presence, a digital marketing agency will translate the strategy you develop together throughout your entire digital presence: on social, in written and video content, and in your website.

If you’re looking for a partner that can help you reach your marketing goals as you develop a content, inbound and website strategy, you may benefit from a partnership with a digital marketing agency.

Digital marketing agencies will think cross-channel

A digital marketing agency’s job is to create a strategic, cross-channel marketing presence for their clients. You can expect a digital marketing agency to talk to you about how to best use your website, mobile app, content, email marketing and videos to achieve your marketing goals.

An ad agency will approach your partnership across channels, but that’s limited to advertising and paid placement. It’s their job to help you achieve a goal (think goals like increase website traffic, convert more social media followers, etc.), but not their job to help you achieve all of your goals. While they will be able to help drive traffic to your website, they may not have the talent in-house to know why visitors are leaving your website upon arrival. A digital marketing agency with in-house web and UX design talent, however, will.

Making a choice

As you’re considering which type of agency partnership is right for your business, consider your needs across your entire marketing department. If you need the help of a full team who can translate your marketing goals across all digital channels, you may be better served partnering with a digital marketing agency.

Regardless of which type of partner you choose, make that decision carefully. A quality agency partner will (and should) serve as a part of your team for a long time. Successful agency partnerships last years - and sometimes even decades. Find a partner with the specific talent and expertise you need who also fits culturally and shares similar values.

At Vitamin D, we live in the software world and we provide marketing for software companies that is designed to break through the clutter, grow their user base, and increase revenue. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Are you interested in seeing the kind of work we do? Check out some of our case studies here. Would you like to talk to us about a potential project? Schedule time with us here.