Historical Advertisement: The Brownie Camera

Advertisement 1: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/eaa_K0430/

Advertisement 2: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/eaa_K0047/

Advertisement 3: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/eaa_K0033/

With this assignment, I will be focusing on the Brownie Camera, which began selling in 1900.  It was the first hand held camera designed by Eastman Kodak Company of New York, commonly known as Kodak, an American technology company focused on imaging solutions.  Its slogan is “You press the button, we do the rest.”

The first ad was the earliest ad I could find of the Brownie Camera dated in 1900.  My eyes first go to a large picture of a fashionable woman in the action of using a brownie camera.  She looks focused and attentive, which could provoke excitement and enthusiasm in viewers who have an interest in photography.  This image portrays an attractive experience for those who may think that they could this person with a Brownie Camera taking snapshots.  The next thing I see is the largest text in the ad, which is the word “Brownie” followed by “$1”.  The text informs the audience that this advertisement is about the Brownie Camera, and that it is one dollar.  The advertisement assumes that one dollar is such an affordable, enticing price at the time that it must make it clearly visible to the audience.  The rest of the information in the ad is smaller text, which makes up the logos of the ad.  The text tells the audience about the functional and physical features of the camera.  It emphasizes how the camera is “so simple that it can be easily operated by any School Boy or Girl.”  This lets the audience know that the camera is accessible and that buyers should not have any problems using it.  This claim is supported in the picture as the camera is shown to be small and easily used, as the woman is using the camera while her eyes are focused on the scenery ahead.  The picture helps viewers trust that the camera is easily accessible, giving the ad credibility on its claims.  Even if someone has problems, there is a booklet included with instructions on how to use the Brownie Camera.  This provides buyers with a safety net and gives them confidence they will be able to use this camera.

In the second ad, readers instantly see “Brownie Camera” in all caps and red text, as opposed to the small, black text in the majority of the ad.  Again, the ad initially tells the reader what it is about.  In the picture, the second thing I saw, there is a young boy taking a picture of two cute younger girls in white dresses.  This picture can evoke sentimental feelings to parents, who may see this ad and want to buy a Brownie Camera for their own kids so they can be adorable like these kids.  In kids, this picture can evoke a feeling of adventure and excitement, as they may want to buy a Brownie Camera and take pictures and have a good time like the kids in the ad are.  In the caption below the picture, it says, “It works like a Kodak.”  This gives credibility to the Brownie Camera, because the Kodak was famous for its accessibility and its slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.”  The text, which makes up the logos in the ad, describes how it is fun for “young folks” to use a Brownie Camera, and that fun is meaningful as there is education and amusement in photography.  The text also emphasizes how this camera is usable in the daylight; this camera has evolved from past models where dark-rooms and dark-room lamps were required.  This may stimulate excitement in people passionate about photography, as they can appreciate this new level of practicality and convenience.

In the third ad, I first see the large text in the middle, “BROWNIES FOR CHRISTMAS.”  This can be directed toward either kids asking for Christmas presents or toward parents looking for presents for their kids.  This would provoke excitement in interested kids and relief in parents frantically looking for a good present.  In the top half of the ad, there is a picture of a boy in Christmas attire with a Brownie Camera at his side.  He seems very cool in his posture and attitude, and this may attract other kids to want to be like him, all relaxed in his Christmas gear ready to snap a picture whenever he wants.  Again, I see the caption, “It works like a Kodak,” which, again, gives credibility to the Brownie Camera. In the text, I am told the Brownie Camera is a great Christmas present for a boy or girl, as fun and education comes with it, and that any school child can take good picture with them.  This can give parents confirmation and confidence that they are making a good choice buying this for their children.

Altogether, the three advertisements share many similarities. This may be because they were all printed within a four year time frame, so propaganda tactics did not change much over little time.  First, all ads were found in magazines.  Next, they all had pictures of only white people, which makes sense to me as at the time, the population of the US was mostly white.  Although the price of the Brownie Camera was clearly emphasized in only one ad, it was still displayed somewhere in the text in all the ads.  This was part of the logos, as it gave quantitative data to viewers on how much they would be spending on this gadget.  Also, the text informs the audience on the physical and functional features of the Brownie Camera, educating prospective buyers to help make their decision to buy this or not. Each ad made it clear that the Brownie Camera was easy to use and that even school boys and girls could use it.  The trend of the word, “school” to describe these kids gives a educational touch to the ad.  This compliments the descriptions in the ads when it is described that photography is educational.  Also, since every ad mentions kid use, the ads assume that kids are actually interested in using a Brownie Camera, and they were right, as the cameras were a hit and sold plenty.  In every ad, the word “Brownie” is highlighted as it is the largest word and it is in all caps.  This is a good tactic, as it draws readers to view this word first and gives them an idea of what the ad is about.  In conclusion, I would say these advertisements were successful and effective in engaging and educating readers about the Brownie Camera, its perks and its price.  As it turns out, Colin Harding states over 100,000 Brownie Cameras were sold, and countless millions were sold until its last sale in 1980.

Works Cited:

Harding, Colin. “B Is For… Brownie, the Camera That Democratised Photography.” National Media Museum Blog. 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “Brownie Camera” [K0033]. Advertisement. 1902. Youth’s Companion. Duke University Digital Collections. Ad*Access. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “Eastman Kodak Co.’s Brownie Camera $1” [K0430]. Advertisement. 1900. Youth’s Companion. Duke University Digital Collections. Ad*Access. Web. 30 Nov. 2014

Kodak. “‘It Works Like A Kodak.’ Brownies For Christmas” [K0047]. Advertisement. 1903. Youth’s Companion. Duke University Digital Collections. Ad*Access. Web. 30 Nov. 2014

2 thoughts on “Historical Advertisement: The Brownie Camera

  1. I think you do a good job of describing what the assorted tactics were that Kodak used in these ads, but I think you could have done more on why they chose to use those tactics. For example, you say, “In the second ad, readers instantly see “Brownie Camera” in all caps and red text, as opposed to the small, black text in the majority of the ad,” which is a great observation, but you don’t explain why they chose to use all caps and red. You could describe how the red matches the colorful trim on the edge of the ad, which demonstrates the Brownie’s new capability to photograph in color maybe, or that it is designed to match the smaller red text at the bottom of the page that provides information about the camera, which is also in red. I really like the paragraph you have at the end of your analysis because I think you do a good job of drawing connections between the different ads and indentifying which tactics were successful and which were not. I think some of that analysis could be incorporated more into your ad-specific body paragraphs as well though so that each paragraph gives a holistic examination of the ad at hand.


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