What Is the Difference between Commercial and Non-Commercial Advertising?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Commercial and non-commercial advertising are both strategies that are designed to reach the public and motivate them to become more interested in the subject matter of the advertisements. While sharing a common goal, that of generating consumer interest, the two forms of advertising do focus on different types of products. Essentially, commercial advertising has to do with selling goods and services, while non-commercial advertising is more about providing information and motivating people to act after being exposed to that information. There are examples of campaigns in which marketers combine elements of commercial and non-commercial advertising to create an approach that both informs and motivates consumers to buy.

Ads for consumer electronics are a part of a commercial marketing plan.
Ads for consumer electronics are a part of a commercial marketing plan.

Understanding the difference between commercial and non-commercial advertising involves identifying the purpose for the advertisements. With commercial advertising, the idea is to sell something to a consumer that will allow the manufacturer of the product to earn a return from that sale. Advertisements for consumer goods like electronics, food products, and even vacation packages are all marketed and sold as part of a commercial advertising campaign.

By contrast, non-commercial advertising is about sharing information that hopefully people will put to good use. For example, a non-profit may implement an advertising campaign to increase public awareness and education about a certain health issue. As part of the advertising, information about what the disease is, who it can affect, and how it can be treated may be included. In addition, information on how people can help the non-profit spread the information and also promote further research is also likely to be shared. In this scenario, information is being sold, but there is not necessarily an expectation of receiving monetary compensation for the effort, although this type of campaign does normally motivate some people to donate funds for research or to the sponsoring non-profit.

When thinking of the difference between commercial and non-commercial advertising, it is often easiest to consider the former as being targeted to generate sales and revenue. At the same time, the latter is focused more on educating people and providing them with opportunities to act on that acquired knowledge. In some cases, the lines between commercial and non-commercial advertising will blur somewhat, with some manufacturers of goods and services using an advertising strategy that is intended to inform and educate while also promoting a product for sale. This hybrid approach to the advertising task can in fact be very successful, in that the effort to educate consumers will often equip them to make informed decisions regarding the product or products offered, which means they are more likely to be satisfied with the purchase, as long as the product does in fact provide the benefits mentioned in the advertising.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- That is a tricky thing to pull off but talented public relations folks can often do it. The problem is that newspapers are getting shelled with all kinds of press releases that are little more than advertisements.

Want to stand out from the pack? Offer something useful instead of delivering just another sales pitch.


All businesses would love to get into the non-commercial side of things so they could effectively put out free advertising. That is why public relations folks are hired to find ways to connect useful information to a product or service in hopes of promoting things that way.

A good example of that strategy would be one in which a software company makes photo editing software. To promote that software, the company might issue tips on how to take better pictures and how to improve on them with editing.

The trick is to offer useful information and then tie it to a product, see?

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