Relative to public relations and other forms of marketing communication, advertising offers a business greater control of its messages and the ability to adapt over time, while primary drawbacks include cost and the fact that there is no guarantee of a reasonable return on investment. Additionally, measuring the return on investment is often difficult.
Because an advertiser pays to place a message in print, broadcast or digital media, that advertiser is able to influence or control the timing, placement, and look or sound of the message. In contrast, PR messages are controlled by the media or public, and the results may be negative toward the advertiser. Advertisers can also modify messages, such as by redesigning print or broadcast advertisements. Online or digital ads are especially flexible as the publisher can often change them at a moment's notice.
Advertising takes up a significant portion of a typical company's marketing budget. For instance, television ads during primetime typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars as of 2014. The expense of some traditional ad media make it a challenge for small companies to afford placements. Return on investment is uncertain with advertising. In some cases, it is difficult to measure the response since viewers, listeners and readers are often passive. When response is effectively measured, it may not meet the expectations of the advertiser.