Historical Advertising Study: The Camera

The camera is an object that has been developed and redeveloped over the years to bring about a revolution in the way we “see” things. With the popularity of this electronic device growing immensely ever since it’s inception, companies that develop the camera have been coming up with creative advertising campaigns to sell their product to consumers. When the camera first hit the market, inventors believed that the device could sell itself, which is why advertisement campaigns surrounding the camera were very rare in the late 18th century. Since Kodak paved the way to technological advancement when it came to the development of the camera, they produced some of the first advertisements for the camera and consequently had the widest reach in terms of audience. George Eastman, founder of Kodak, was considered to be one of the key factors behind the popularization of the camera. His work with the development of the device helped bring the camera to the common man and made photography a mainstream phenomenon. Entering the market with a simple yet catchy slogan that read “you press the button, we do the rest,” Kodak made capturing images sound extremely simple. Eliminating the public perception of a cumbersome, complex process behind clicking pictures, Kodak’s advertising campaign was the main component behind its success in the past. In fact, today’s Kodak is known not only for photography, but also for imaging applications that can be used in a variety of industries.

The first advertisement by Kodak published in a popular magazine nearly a year after the invention of the camera was a very small image placed onto the bottom of a page. This picture was very basic in terms of design and only looked to incorporate the essentials. Since the computer wasn’t a very advanced design tool at the time, a hand drawn picture of the camera was the highlight of the advertisement when it came to graphics. Kodak’s slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,” was emphasized in the center of the advertisement along with the name of the company. Kodak uses its brand value or ethos to attract audiences. Known as one of the largest producers of cameras and photography related products at the time, choosing to highlight the name of the company would create great awareness amongst the audience. Another very important component of this advertisement that attracts attention is the caption that goes along with the slogan, which reads, “the only camera that anybody can use without instructions”. This caption appeals directly to the audience through persuasion as the company tries to convince potential customers that it is extremely easy to operate a Kodak camera. The rest of the advertisement focuses on providing important information such as price and sellers information. At this point in time, it was very important for the company to advertise wisely as the camera had just been introduced to the world. Spreading the word and successfully publicizing the object would be the key to its success in the future.

Another advertisement that was published by Kodak as a result of the success of the camera came in contact with the public through the means of a magazine. This time, the company decided to publish a full-page advertisement to increase the reach of their campaign and build on to their consumer base. This advertisement, unlike the previous one, was more colorful and used an actual image as its central component. Published in the year 1913, this advertisement was created by the company with the intention of improving on the quality of the previous campaign. The first thing that grabs the attention of the viewer here is the large picture that takes up more than half of the page. This image is a colored sketch of a couple holding up their Kodak camera whilst they are out at sea on their boat. The lady that has been captured in this image is holding up the camera as if it were a trophy, a proud possession that she values greatly. The man in the background is smoking from a pipe and is wearing fancy clothes, telling us that the couple is well off and extremely happy with their purchase. The caption below this image reads: “At the moment- the fun of picture taking- afterward the joy of possession. There’s all this for those who keep the personal story of their outings with a Kodak.” Here, the advertisement appeals to the audience’s pathos in talking about the “joy of possession” and the “fun of picture taking”. This advertisement is trying to highlight the fact that photography can be an enjoyable hobby and that the camera is an essential purchase for every family. The image of the couple on the boat suggests that the company is looking to appeal to a certain target audience, as the duo seems to be well off financially. Finally, another striking aspect of this advertisement is the way the name of the company has been highlighted. “Kodak” has been written in bold print across the page. As mentioned earlier, this decision appeals to the consumer’s logos and urges the public to purchase this product with the comfort of brand value.

The final advertisement published by Kodak in the year 1919 in the “Country Gentleman” magazine looks to attract a specific audience by pin pointing their target consumer. The central element of this full-page advertisement is the black and white picture of a bull. Unlike the advertisements that were discussed previously, this commercial contains an actual image taken by the advertised product. Looking to attract readers of the “Country Gentleman” magazine, this advertisement has been tailored specifically to grab their attention as seen through the incorporation of the image of the bull. As opposed to a picture of something scenic, the head of the campaign chose to use this picture as it appeals to the target audience. A small box towards the end of the page contains the text component of the advertisement and contrasts the image in the background to stand out. Yet again, the name of the company has been highlighted to create logos and enforce the credibility and reliance that comes with the name that is “Kodak”. Further, the caption says “YOU can take pictures like this- can make a Kodak album of everything that interests you. It’s simpler and less expensive than you think.” Like the previous advertisements, this one looks to create pathos and appeal to the audience by putting emphasis on something the target audience would appreciate.

In conclusion, it can be said that Kodak has followed a very similar advertising model over the years. Relying heavily on their brand name, the company has always decided to put emphasis on the name of the company, making it the first thing the audience sees. Another observation that can be made on the basis of the analysis of these advertisements is that the company resorts to advertising through the means of magazines and selects its target audience on the basis of the readers of the given magazine. Finally, Kodak always puts the power in the hands of the consumer, appealing to their emotions and making them believe that this product would be perfect for them.

Works Cited:

Kodak. “The Kodak Camera” [K0538]. Advertisement. 1889. Duke U. Rare Book and Manuscript Lib. Ad* Access. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Kodak. “The Kodak Camera” [K0163]. Advertisement. 1913. Duke U. Rare Book and Manuscript Lib. Ad* Access. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Kodak. “Kodak” [K0280]. Advertisement. 1917. Duke U. Rare Book and Manuscript Lib. Ad* Access. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

2 thoughts on “Historical Advertising Study: The Camera

  1. The progression of analysis was very easy to follow in your post. Your analysis was supplemented greatly by your description of the connotation carried by the advertisement’s words. However, I think your post could be strengthened by greater and more in depth analysis of the images behind those words. Your conclusion is logical and reveals a lot about the particular advertising style of the Kodak company. One suggestion for improvement would be to add whether or not you believe the ad is effective and why. Another improvement could be to add the images into your actual post to make them easier to find for the reader. Overall a very informative post.


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