Advertising in the
Social Marketing Mix:
Getting the Balance Right
Martine Stead Gerard Hastings University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Social marketing continues to be equated, by many practitioners and even by some academics, with social advertising. Overstating advertising's importance in social marketing threatens the discipline in several ways: Nonpromotional elements of the social marketing mix are neglected, social marketing is restricted in practice, distracting arguments are generated, social marketing is blamed for advertising's limitations and is subject to ethical misgivings. Some have argued that the dominance of social advertising in social marketing is inevitable because the intangibility and immutability of social marketing's products leave promotion as the only mix variable open to manipulation. However, social marketers can change their products, as a UK social marketing initiative promoting water fluoridation to the public, policymakers, and the media demonstrates. Creative thinking is needed to prevent social marketers believing that all they can change is promotion and all they can do is social advertising.
From the early days of social marketing, theorists and practitioners have cautioned that social marketing "is a much larger idea than social advertising" ( Kotler & Zaltman, 1971, p. 5) and encompasses more than the design and use of mass media campaigns ( Kotler, 1994; Sutton, 1991; Young, 1988-1989). Yet, the tendency to label what is essentially social advertising activity as social marketing persists at practitioner level, as Andreasen ( 1994) noted: "Too many practitioners are really doing social advertising and calling it social marketing" (p. 9). Papers and textbooks continue to be written that, by citing mass media advertising campaigns