You won’t hear many people talking about the difference between brand advertising and direct response. That’s because the majority of people, even marketers, are not aware that these two distinct kinds of advertising exist.

Most marketers either do one or the other. And the general public, when discussing advertising, are almost always referring to brand advertising.

But for marketers, and the companies they represent, the distinction is critical.

Brand Advertising

Most television commercials. Banner ads on most websites. Billboards and most other forms of outdoor advertising. Most print ads in widely circulated newspapers and magazines.

Brand advertising is everywhere. It’s sexy. It’s the kind of advertising Don Draper was interested in, and the kind most people think of when they think of advertising in general.

Brand advertisers are interested in getting their brand in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Their aim is brand recognition. They want you, the consumer, to know who they are so that the next time you need something they sell, you think of them first. It’s all about the size of their market.

Almost all of the largest advertisers in the world are brand advertisers – Coca Cola, Bud Light, Apple.

Direct Response

Ads on search engines. Marketing emails. Many print ads in local newspapers or smaller, trade magazines. Facebook ads. Remarketing ads. Coupons. Local radio spots.

Direct response advertising is everywhere, but unless you are the one being targeted, you might not know it. That’s because direct response ads have a very specific purpose, and that is for you, the consumer, to buy something upon seeing the ad.

They are more targeted than brand advertising, because they are intended to be seen only by those likely to take action. They are meant to elicit a response (hence the name) and will usually feature a special offer or promotion.

Direct response advertisers track their advertising very closely to determine where they are getting the best ROI. They will optimize budgets to get more conversions at a lower per conversion cost.

So which is better?

Neither is better. It all depends on the market you’re in, who you are competing with, and how much money you have to spend on advertising. With direct response, you can start small and scale up over time. With brand advertising, you can make a more immediate splash and reach more people over a shorter period of time.