Eastman Kodak Company ran one of the largest advertising campaigns in its history to publicize the Advanced Photo System (APS), a new type of camera, film, and related products developed jointly by Kodak and a number of competitors. Kodak’s APS cameras were designed primarily to make photography easier for the snapshooter, the consumer who took pictures to remember birthdays and other such occasions.
Because the public was still confused about APS after an initial marketing campaign in 1996, the company hired ad agency Ogilvy & Mather of New York to design new advertising for 1997 to explain the advantages of APS products. These commercials ran until they were replaced by the next phase of APS promotions, which began in the summer of 1998. Kodak spent far more than its competitors to promote APS, which helped consumers equate APS with Advantix, the Kodak brand of APS products. The 1997 ‘‘Advantix’’ television campaign ran in two stages. The first was a spot that asked, ‘‘Can your camera do this?’’ and then explained three of an Advantix camera’s innovative features; drop-in film loading, choice of three picture sizes, and an index print. The second stage consisted of three humorous scenarios, one for each special feature of the Advantix system, which showed photographers experiencing problems they could have avoided if they had used APS. One spot, for example, showed an elderly woman who had fulfilled her lifelong dream of having her picture taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. When she had the pictures developed, she was horrified to see that the photographer had cropped off most of her head so that the tower would fit into the picture. The ad concluded, ‘‘She should’ve had a Kodak Advantix camera with three picture sizes for better pictures.’’
The campaign also included print advertisements that illustrated the three distinctive features of APS products. Each ad displayed color photographs against a Kodak yellow background and was accompanied by a brief explanation of one of the features and of Kodak’s general corporate signature, ‘‘Take Pictures. Further.’’
In helping to develop the Advanced Photo System to make photography easier for the average consumer, Kodak was staying true to its roots. The company had been founded in 1888 on the slogan ‘‘You push the button, we do the rest.’’ Kodak had a history of introducing new products, including photographic equipment and supplies, projectors, and copiers. In 1997 Kodak was a multinational corporation with nearly 100,000 employees, one of the 25 largest companies in the United States. The ‘‘Tall Tales’’ commercials ran in the same year as the first ads to promote the new Advantix camera. The initial campaign, launched in February 1996, was designed by J. Walter Thompson, which had been Kodak’s primary ad agency for more than 60 years. The commercials opened with the customary Kodak moment, as when a bearded hippie admired a spectacular mountain vista and commented, ‘‘Some people see mountains. I see personalities.’’ After the point had been made that every photographer captured pictures from a unique point of view, the voice-over said, ‘‘Now Kodak introduces a new technology that will let you take those pictures further than you’ve ever imagined.’’ The commercial concluded by summarizing the three innovative features of APS cameras and film.
In 1997, when J. Walter Thompson was replaced by Ogilvy & Mather, the ‘‘Advantix’’ campaign began. Kodak had invested a great deal of money in researching and developing APS, and it allocated $100 million to promote Advantix products worldwide.
Kodak believed that its core customers would take more pictures of a broader range of subjects if they were provided with cameras, film, and other merchandise that would make photography easier. The company wanted to attract new customers but was primarily interested in appealing to those who were already familiar with its products. A large percentage of Kodak’s customers were mothers who took pictures during birthday parties, holiday celebrations, vacations, and other family occasions. Kodak’s previous advertising had focused on this type of situation, but as its customers became more adept at photography, the company’s commercials featured a wider variety of possibilities.
Although many customers had learned how to use the more complex 35-mm equipment that had been their best option before the advent of the Advanced Photo System, they were not particularly interested in creating professional-looking photographs. Instead, they wanted convenient equipment that was easy to use and would produce pictures of good quality. It was thought that they would appreciate the compact size of the Advantix cameras, the ‘‘foolproof’’ drop-in loading that would help them avoid frustrating mechanical problems, and the choice of three picture sizes for each shot. In addition, they would welcome the index print, which, like a proof sheet, showed miniature replicas of each shot on the roll of film. The index print would allow users to see what they were getting when they ordered reprints without having to deal with negatives. The marketing campaign pointed out each of these advantages in a simple way that could be grasped by watching a 30-second television commercial or by reading a few sentences in a print ad.
Each of the five companies—Kodak, Canon U.S.A., Minolta, Nikon, and Fuji Photo Film U.S.A.—that cooperated in developing the Advanced Photo System had its own brand of APS products, and they were designed to meet the needs of somewhat different target markets. In general, all provided the three basic APS features, and Fuji also introduced a line of APS film. Kodak’s Advantix camera tended to be slightly less expensive than some of the other APS brands and was generally easier for snapshooters to use. Consumers did not have the option of changing lenses with the Advantix camera, but it did have a built-in zoom lens. In contrast, one of Canon’s four APS cameras, the EOS IX, was designed to accept more than 50 lenses and hundreds of accessories. The company also introduced the credit card-size ELPH, the world’s smallest shutter camera with a 2x zoom lens. The ELPH had several sophisticated features, including an active autofocusing mode that used an infrared emitter and sensor and a passive mode that could discern variations in contrast. Another model, the Canon ELPH 490Z, featured a 4x zoom lens. In television commercials a woman with an elfin air about her inquired, ‘‘Have you seen the ELPH?’’ as a series of ultracompact cameras floated past. The ads ended with the tag line ‘‘It’s so advanced . . . it’s simple.’’ Another Canon slogan said, ‘‘ELPH: the big name in the Advanced Photo System.’’
During 1997 Fuji offered rebates of up to $15 to develop and print a roll of its Fujicolor SmartFilm when customers purchased certain Fujifilm Endeavor APS cameras. To publicize the rebates, the company ran a full-page ad in USA Today and other ads in 15 key markets. The campaign was launched in September 1997 to coincide with holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to promotional efforts for its APS films, Fuji expanded its network of photographic laboratories in Europe and the United States and offered digital imaging services. Fuji’s net sales increased 12 percent in 1997.
Minolta and Nikon also advertised their cameras and accessories, but Kodak spent far more to publicize APS than did all the other companies combined. In addition to its ‘‘Advantix’’ campaigns, Kodak participated in co-op ads with the other companies to educate the public about APS.
Kodak’s $100 million budget to advertise Advantix products amounted to about 85 percent of the total all five companies spent to publicize APS products in 1997. Fuji initially allocated about $13 million, twice its previous ad budget, to promote its SmartFilm brand. Minolta allocated $10 million, about 150 percent of its previous ad budget, to promote its Vectis brand of APS products. Kodak’s total spending on advertising in 1994, just before APS was introduced, was $65.4 million. In 1997 the company budgeted about $60 million for advertising Advantix in the United States alone.
At the end of the 1996 campaign introducing the Advanced Photo System equipment and film, consumers still seem confused. As a result, Ogilvy & Mather introduced the ‘‘Can Your Camera Do This?’’ spot. The 1997 round of ads was intended primarily to promote the Advantix brand and only secondarily APS. The challenge was to communicate the basics of a new, complex technology in print ads and television commercials. In April 1997 Kodak began airing television ads that asked, ‘‘Can your camera do this?’’ They stressed the three features of Advantix cameras—drop-in film loading, the choice of three picture sizes, and an index print. This first phase of the campaign was designed to explain the functional benefits of APS.
The next series of television ads were humorous, depicting common problems that photographers could eliminate by using Advantix products. The print ads gave more details. For example, one television spot showed a couple who were having a reprint made so that they could enter the photo in a cute-baby contest but who chose the wrong negative and inadvertently submitted a picture of a chubby grown-up. The commercial ended with the line ‘‘They should’ve had the Kodak Advantix system with an index print so you can see what you’re ordering.’’ The corresponding print ad showed an example of an index print and included explanatory text:
‘‘Choosing your favorite smile is a lot easier when you can actually see the smile. When Kodak Advantix film is processed, your pictures come back with the negatives in their original film cassette and with an index print that gives you a miniature version of every shot. Ordering reprints is easy, and you can get them in any of the three sizes. So no more squinting at negatives, trying to tell a grimace from a grin.’’
The broadcast ads were aired on network, cable, and syndicated television programs, particularly during the Academy Awards and the coverage of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. In addition to the United States, they ran in the United Kingdom and in other countries. In non-U.S. markets the ‘‘Can your camera do this?’’ spots were shown more often than the humorous ads. The print ads ran primarily in consumer magazines in the United States. Some appeared in publications that focused on new parents and travel so as to reach readers who were likely to be taking more than the average number of photographs. The ads also appeared in generalinterest magazines and in various other publications. The ads highlighting the three features of the Advantix camera ran into the summer of 1998, when the next stage of the promotion began. Kodak’s promotion of Advantix products and APS had been designed to encompass several years, allowing the company to expand gradually on the basic message.
Kodak and Ogilvy & Mather analyzed the public’s reaction to the campaign and found that it scored high on every positive indicator. When asked to tell what they recalled about the advertisements, people were able to repeat the words almost exactly. One of the spots was included on Adweek ’s list of the best ads of 1997. During 1997 Kodak saw strong growth for its other merchandise as well, in part because of the promotion of such products as Max film and Goldfilm.