The Kodak Camera

The introduction of the first Kodak camera in 1888 marked a new era of photography. Consumers no longer needed to be dependent on professional photographers as people could now capture their own special moments using this simple, user-friendly device. However, without the use of advertisements, the Kodak camera would not have been able to receive as much support from the public and be easily integrated into modern-day life. By looking over past Kodak advertisements, I was able to analyze how different layouts and methods of rhetoric could elicit varying messages towards consumers. Moreover, by comparing and contrasting the ads, I was able to perceive a collective message and distinguish a fixed trend.

The first advertisement was published in a magazine in 1888. This advertisement appears to be directed towards an adult audience as the entire ad is filled with heavy text and few graphics. Furthermore, the content presented in the ad contains standard, mundane information about the product. Therefore, this advertisement lacks the visual appeal that is vital for grabbing the attention of a younger audience. The ad also assumes that its customers have the wealth and time to go travelling when appealing the notion that the product can assemble “a picturesque diary” of one’s trip to Europe and expedition to the mountains. Moreover, the ad also presumes that consumers are active and enjoy outdoor activities. The advertisement emphasizes how the product is easily operated when beginning the first paragraph with the sentence, “Anybody who can wind a watch can use the Kodak Camera.” Instead of simply stating that the product is straightforward and easy to use, the ad makes a greater impact on the audience as it connects the function of the camera to the effortless task of winding a watch. The ad also incorporates words such as “anybody” and “amateur” to further instill this point. It is evident that this advertisement targets nonprofessionals as the description of the product is clear and comprehensible with no use of jargon; however, I do not believe that this ad would attract people who have absolutely no knowledge and initial interest of the product. The unattractive, text-filled layout makes it difficult for people to skim through the dense information and grasp a quick summary upon a first glance. Although the large illustration of the camera at the top of the advertisement provides a quick and clear visual-representation of the product, it is not enough to trigger the curiosity of the audience to continue reading.

The 1893 advertisement from Harper’s magazine shows an image of a man dogsledding at the North Pole. The ad describes how Lieutenant Peary was able to attain a more memorable experience from his recent expedition due to the Kodak camera. The ad presents a personal reflection by Lieut. Peary as he states, “I regard the Kodak as responsible for having obtained a series of pictures which in quality and quantity exceed any that have been brought back.” Instead of directly marketing the product itself, this ad focuses on the practical uses and aspects of the device by presenting how the Kodak has already been able to play a huge role in someone’s life. Furthermore, the ad not only paints a picture in the audience’s mind, but also physically shows a detailed illustration of the scene. The layout of the illustration causes the audience to slowly move their attention towards the text as the sled dogs encircle the square text, positioned in the middle of the page. This advertisement is directed towards individuals who share an interest in adventure and enjoy travelling. Furthermore, the advertisement also assumes that its audience is already familiar with the product as it does not mention or specify how the device appears and functions.

The final advertisement is from Judge Magazine, published in 1900. The ad is composed of a drawing of a person holding a Kodak camera in his or her pocket. At the top of the ad, the heading, “Take a Kodak home for Christmas” is written in bold letters. The layout of the ad creates a vertical progression down the page as the audience is directed to more text regarding the physical features of the product and the price listing situated at the bottom left hand corner. This advertisement encourages its audience that the Kodak camera is the perfect gift for the holidays. Furthermore, the ad also appeals the product’s light and portable size using an illustration of a Kodak being able to fit in a coat pocket. This ad is targeted towards individuals with higher incomes as the ad assumes that its customers can afford to gift such a luxurious toy. Alike the second ad, the advertisement presumes that its audience has basic knowledge of the product as the full device is neither explained nor shown.

After a thorough analysis of the advertisements, I noticed a similarity among the three ads. I realized that each ad uses rhetoric appeals to help portray the lightweight, convenient, and compact quality of the product. The first ad uses logos when mentioning the physical measurements, such as the size and weight, to highlight the portable feature of the device. Similar to the first ad, the second advertisement highlights the convenient quality of the product through ethos. The ad tries to gain the trust and respect of the audience by establishing the fact that Lieut. Perry was the first white man to explore an uncharted region in the ice caps. Moreover, the advertisement incorporates a quote by Lieut. Perry in order to substantiate this narration. Lastly, the final ad uses pathos in order to appeal to the emotions of its customers. By connecting the product to a holiday gift, the ad establishes a sense of warmth and giving. Not only does the ad underline the compact, mobile quality of the product, it also instills the idea of giving someone the gift of capturing his or her most memorable moments.

These advertisements encouraged the trend for people to become more active and to partake in outdoor activities. With this new device, taking photographs was no longer viewed as a tedious and expensive process. People could now not only take their own photographs, but also bring their Kodak cameras anywhere they wanted. The Kodak camera was ultimately able to knock down the conventional views of traditional photography through the use of these advertisements. The first two advertisements convey the benefits of engaging in a more active lifestyle by advocating the notion of creating memoirs through photographs. Moreover, the third ad uses a coat as a symbol of leaving the house while subtly indicating that the Kodak camera is a device used for the outdoors. Therefore, these three ads help portray the camera as a stepping-stone for people to live more dynamic lives.

Works Cited


Kodak. “The Kodak Camera”. Advertisement. Outing Magazine.1888. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “The Kodak at the North Pole”. Advertisement. Harper’s. 1893. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

Kodak. “Take a Kodak Home for Christmas”. Advertisement. Judge. 1900. Duke U. Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

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