Historical Advertisements: Cameras

Think about why you bought your first camera. The color? The clarity? The popularity of the product? Probably for one of these reasons, if not all. Since the late nineteenth century, the camera has come a long way. In advertising for this novel product, three main ideas were explored. The first aspect appealed to the simplicity of the product; how it is easy to use and how anyone can use it. Advertisers also made a point to explain how everyone needed a camera to capture moments. There is also a focus on the accessibility of the product; how it is sized effectively and prices efficiently. Rather than modern camera commercials which prove their superiority through their bold coloring or professional photography abilities, primitive cameras were mainly promoted for their ability to capture life’s best moments.

It can be inferred that the advertisement “The Kodak Camera,” published in Outing Magazine in 1888, was one of the first, if not the first straightforward advertisement for the modern camera. This advertisement is very simple and factual, as it give the exact weight, price, size of camera, and size of photographs. There are three main, bolded points this advertisement concentrates on—“a division of labor,” “a picturesque diary,” and “a beautiful instrument.” The “division of labor” aspect of this advertisement highlights that the camera can take one hundred photos before needing to be developed, has inexpensive film refills, and needs no extra equipment. The “picturesque diary” section accentuates the everlasting quality of the photos the camera takes, and the “beautiful instrument” segment explains the intricacy of the product itself. This advertisement does not seem to have one specific audience it is targeting. For the most part, advertisers were probably trying to catch the attention of families with budgets and memories to be recorded or young people interested in documenting their lives through photography. What seems most strange about this advertisement is the vast amount of words it includes; typical advertisements have maybe twenty or thirty words if that. In a way, I feel like the advertisers may have been assuming that their target audience is lazy. There is so much emphasis on how easy it is to get photos developed, to refill film, and how it is so small and easy to hold. If this is the case, why did the advertisers include so many words on the advertisement? The picture of the camera in a person’s hands shows how you could have this product, and how you could use it to take pictures of your endeavors to Europe. Because clearly if you have a camera, you will automatically go to Europe with it.

The advertisement “Oh, For a Camera” again, focuses on the accessibility and the memory documenting abilities of the camera. The portrait of a family at the top of the advertisement indicates that Eastman Kodak Co. is targeting families with children, eager to capture family moments. This advertisement also goes on about how light and easy the Premo camera is, trying to sell the product on its ubiquitousness. Other than professional uses, the camera has typically been advertised to families. For this reason, this advertisement most likely did an effective job of selling Premo cameras. Advertisers targeting families know that it is important to make clear that the product is simple, light, and cost effective.

In 1913, Kodak released the advertisement “A Boys’ Sport and A Boys’ Camera. Brownie Cameras.” This advertisement is slightly different from Kodak’s previous assignments in that it focuses more on photography as a hobby, and less as a familial keepsake. Instead of targeting a more parental audience, Kodak is targeting children while also targeting adults, making the camera come across as a toy. In comparing this advertisement with the previous two, I think that advertising the Brownie camera is a very effective way to target a new audience. For over thirty years, Kodak publicized the camera as a family product, and probably sold many of them. Most likely, as sales started to go down, Kodak decided to target a new audience—children. What seems ironic about this ad is that even though it is targeting children, and even features a photo of children playing, it still includes the price. Young children typically do not have money and the advertisement would see to catch the eyes of children quicker than the eyes of their parents. Perhaps a more effective way to get parents to buy the Brownie camera for their children would be to discuss why this is such a useful, great, and cost effective toy for your child.

The most effective of these advertisements was probably “Oh, For a Camera,” as it featured the least text and most novel way of broadcasting the camera and its abilities. This ad did a better job of appealing to a specific audience than the other two. An interesting commonality among these ads is the emphasis each put on price. Is it possible that Kodak is assuming money is scarce among their target audience? If so, why did they choose this particular audience? Since advertising the camera, a focus on documenting “special” moments. Kodak’s advertising not only sold cameras, but also sold this idea of treasuring good times.

Works Cited

Kodak. “The Kodak Camera”. Advertisement. Outing Magazine. 1888. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “Oh, For a Camera”. Advertisement. Country Life in America. 1909. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “A Boy’s Sport and a Boy’s Camera. Brownie Cameras”. Advertisement. Companion 1913. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.


One thought on “Historical Advertisements: Cameras

  1. Right from the beginning of the article I could already picture my first camera. I bought it for the reasons you described and many more. It was really the advertisement that made me want to purchase the item. I really like the way you describe the advertisements you looked at. They all flow together really well and are all extremely descriptive. My favorite description of your three is the description of the kodak camera. You do a really good job of describing the functionality of the camera. Overall I really like this piece and you did a great job analyzing the advertisements!!


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