Edwin H. Land founded Polaroid Corp. in 1937; 10 years later, he invented the Polaroid Land Camera. The first public demonstration of the instant-print camera occurred on Feb. 21, 1947, when Mr. Land created a self-portrait to show how simply and quickly his new invention worked.
The next day, The New York Times ran a copy of this 8-by-10-inch sepia portrait with a story headlined, "The camera does the rest," a play on Kodak's slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest." The following week, a full-page reproduction of the photograph was printed in Life.
N.W. Ayer & Son handled Polaroid advertising in the early days, followed, in 1945 by Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Boston, which remained Polaroid's agency of record until 1954.
Polaroid introduced the Model 95 Land Camera in 1948. The camera sold for $89.50. Rolling out its product market by market, Polaroid told dealers that it did not want a display unless it dominated the store; anything less, Polaroid's strategy declared, was unworthy of this new development in photography.
First national effort
Polaroid introduced its first national campaign with a page ad in the June 13, 1949, issue of Life. Print ads also appeared in Holiday, National Geographic, Time and The New Yorker, as well as in newspapers in every major U.S. market.
In 1952, Polaroid introduced its second consumer product, the Pathfinder Model 110, the basic folding-bellows-style camera with a more sophisticated lens and shutter system, retailing for $249.50. Magazine ads were headlined, "Picture yourself on Christmas with a Polaroid Land Camera." Live TV spots began on NBC's "Today."
In 1954, Polaroid introduced its Highlander camera with an initial advertising budget of $630,000 for the product's first two months. Also that year, Polaroid 3-D glasses were used to view the first 3-D stereoscopic movie, "Bwana Devil." Polaroid's 3-D viewing glasses account remained with Cunningham & Walsh, which had won the account in 1953.
In July 1954, Polaroid named Doyle Dane Bernbach as its agency, replacing BBDO. Polaroid's relationship with DDB continued for the next 30 years. Polaroid ended the decade with the 1959 introduction of its 3,000-speed film and wink-light, which allowed indoor photography without a flash, spending a record $2.5 million on advertising from the end of September through the Christmas holiday.
In 1963, Polaroid introduced Polacolor instant color film along with the Land Automatic 100 camera. The new film was sold in packs rather than rolls. Polaroid used nearly 3,000 outdoor posters in the principal cities of 19 U.S. states to promote its Polacolor film through the summer of 1963.
Polaroid won three Clio awards for commercials from DDB in 1965. That coincided with a dramatic increase in its ad spending from $8.5 million in 1964 to more than $18 million in 1966. Polaroid also brought out its Swinger camera in 1965, targeting a younger photo-taking consumer with the theme, "It's the camera for a whole new generation." Swinger retailed for $19.95.
Polaroid's next big introduction came in 1969, when the company spent $2.2 million on a "blitz week" campaign to introduce the Colorpack II camera. The $29.95 Colorpack II produced color pictures in one minute and b&w pictures in 10 seconds. Later that year, Polaroid launched TV spots and magazine ads that featured singer Perry Como as spokesman.
With the arrival of the 1970s, Polaroid began to focus on minority marketing. In 1970, the company assigned a special project for its Polaroid Land Camera to Zebra Associates, New York, targeting the African-American consumer market. The campaign included ethnic radio and African-American-oriented newspapers in 26 top markets.
In 1972, Polaroid introduced its SX-70 camera and accompanying color film that eliminated the need to peel the negative from the positive print. The image developed outside the camera. The SX-70 was also the first folding single-lens reflex camera in history. DDB created a lavish, $20 million ad campaign with actor Sir Laurence Olivier as the spokesman.
In 1974, Polaroid expanded its international focus, spending $49 million in worldwide advertising as it rolled out its SX-70 system beyond North America. The following year Mr. Land resigned as president and William J. McClune Jr., who had joined the company in 1939, succeeded him. Mr. Land continued as chairman-CEO and director of research.
Meanwhile, as patents began to expire, Polaroid faced competition in its instant camera niche. In 1976, Kodak created an instant print camera and film packs of its own. Polaroid responded by filing suit, alleging that Kodak had infringed on 12 patents for both the camera and film. It wasn't until September 1985 that a U.S. District Court judge ruled against Kodak, ordering the company to stop making and selling instant-print cameras. During that time, Kodak had sold more than 16 million instant-print cameras. In 1991, Kodak was ordered to pay Polaroid $925 million.
The Garner-Hartley years
In March 1976, Polaroid began marketing Pronto, its fourth and least expensive model in the SX-70 line. Actor Alan Alda was chosen as the spokesman for the $4 million launch of the Pronto camera. Actor James Garner took over the role as Pronto spokesman in a campaign featuring the slogan, "Picture yourself-Pronto."
From 1977 through 1983, Mr. Garner was joined by Mariette Hartley. The Garner-Hartley team also introduced Polaroid's Sun System line of cameras.
In 1980, Mr. Land stepped down as CEO but continued as chairman and assumed a new position of consulting director of basic research in Land photography. (Mr. McClune added the title of CEO.) In 1982, Mr. Land resigned from the board to work full-time with the Rowland Institute for Science, a privately endowed, nonprofit, basic research organization he had founded in 1980. He died in 1991 at the age of 81. Mr. McClune was elected chairman of the board in 1982 and continued as president-CEO.
In 1984, Polaroid moved its account to Ally & Gargano, which began a national rotation of commercials with high emotional appeal. In one of the spots, a little boy bids good-bye to his mother on his first day of school. When he gets on the school bus and opens up his lunch box, he finds a Polaroid picture of his mother with a note saying, "I love you." Some of these new spots played on consumers' fears about inept film processing, stressing that Polaroid instant film is never ruined by an outside film developer.
That October, Polaroid offered buyers of Polaroid cameras 25% discounts on all round-trip airfares with Trans World Airlines. The promotion, with its theme "Polaroid's passport?25% off TWA's world," started only weeks after a major airline fare war broke out. Ally & Gargano lost the $40 million Polaroid consumer account in October 1985, however, when consumer recall tests showed poor results. BBDO Worldwide became the company's agency of record in December of that year.
On April 21, 1986, Polaroid introduced the Spectra camera as an upscale camera, with British actor Ben Cross as its presenter and the theme, "We take your pictures seriously." Ogilvy & Mather, London, introduced the Spectra in Europe, Australia and Japan under the Image System brand in September 1986. In August 1989, Polaroid pulled its $20 million pan-European account from Ogilvy and reassigned the business to local agencies on a country-by-country basis.
Capturing the youth market
Polaroid then began to focus on the youth market, rolling out the Cool Cam camera in 1988 via Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein, San Francisco, in five 30-second spots. That effort represented Polaroid's first attempt to advertise to the youth market since the 1960s.
In a 1989 campaign, BBDO Worldwide prepared a campaign targeted at the business, professional, scientific and consumer users of instant photography. In one spot, a boy is shown walking down a street with an empty leash. In a store window he spots a Polaroid picture of his dog and is reunited with his pet. These commercials were themed, "Nothing works like a Polaroid" and "Before it's a memory, it's Polaroid."
The Captiva camera, introduced in 1993, featured contemporary styling and a hands-free storage system that allowed users to continuously take pictures, with the pictures stored inside the camera.
In 1995, BBDO Worldwide abruptly left Polaroid to handle rival Eastman Kodak Co.'s $50 million global branding account. Polaroid spent just $9 million that year, with most of the advertising handled by Burrell Communications, Chicago. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners took over the account in September 1995. The agency produced commercials with the tagline "See what develops." A series of these commercials had fun with some of the myths about instant pictures, such as the advice that shaking the picture would help it develop faster. The Expressions line of cameras, linked to the U.K. musical group the Spice Girls in 1998, was marketed to children 9 to 12 years old, whereas the Wave camera was marketed to the 12 to 17 age group. Goodby handled the $40 million campaign while targeting the 18-to-34 crowd with a $20 million campaign for PopShots, an instant single-use camera.
Continuing to target youth markets at the turn of the century, Polaroid teamed with many popular singing groups to market its I-Zone camera, which produced color photographs or photograph stickers. Teen singing sensation Britney Spears promoted the camera during her 2000 "Oops! . . . I Did It Again" tour. During the concert she would invite a young man from the audience on stage, serenade him and pose with him for a pocket-snapshot.
The I-Zone camera was also the official camera of the "Sears Presents Backstreet Boys Into the Millennium" tour and the U.S. mall tour of the all-girl pop group Nobody's Angel.
In May 2000, Bcom3 Group was appointed to handle Polaroid's $100 million global advertising account. Chicago-based Leo Burnett Worldwide became the lead global agency, replacing Goodby. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which had handled European advertising since 1995, continued on that assignment.
However, sales of Polaroid instant photography products continued to suffer, in part due to the rise of one-hour film developing shops and advances in digital technology. As the company's debt mounted, Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2001.
In 2003, the beleaguered brand put its global business up for review, and Burnett declined to participate. Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide was awarded the account in October. Boosting the company's marketing efforts, the name Polaroid was included in the song "Hey Ya" by OutKast when the hip-hop group performed on "Saturday Night Live" as well as during its appearance on the Vibe Awards.