Kodak's split image lights up Advantix

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Advertiser: Eastman Kodak Co.
Agency: J. Walter Thompson USA, New York
Rating: 3 stars

This quick snapshot of the New Hampshire primary is brought to you by the new Kodak Advantix system: Pat Buchanan is a conservative Republican, and a protectionist. Lamar Alexander is a Washington outsider, and a Washington insider. Steve Forbes is the bearer of fresh ideas spewing the foulest smelling advertising. Bob Dole is the unstoppable juggernaut on the defensive from the get-go.

Contradictions, in other words, everywhere--contradictions just like Kodak faces introducing the Advanced Photo System revolution in film photography, whose genesis is complex technology but whose benefit is simplicity itself.

Should J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, speak only in simple terms about the breakthrough, though consumers are dubious of unsupported "new and improved" claims? Or should the agency thoroughly document the technology and the benefits it confers, at the risk of viewers' eyes glazing over?

A dilemma. And Kodak's choice in this case was complicated still further by the fact that this particular photography innovation is not its proprietary own; the Advanced Photo System was developed by a consortium of manufacturers and the competition has it, too.

So, faced with a complicated choice, the advertiser and its agency...didn't make one. The 60-second unveiling of the Advantix system is, in effect, not one commercial but two. The first 30 seconds is a kind of manifesto of human spirit and point of view, a paean to the miracle of life as captured through a viewfinder.

"Most people don't think this neighborhood is beautiful, but I do," says a young inner-city teen, amid dramatic, bright, colorful urban images.

"It's like a different world out here every day," says a California surfer type, with breathtaking Pacific coast shots in his wake. Then, atop a series of stirring, beautifully composed Kodak moments, the voice-over:

"We've all seen things nobody else has ever seen. There are beautiful pictures in all of us."

A woman says, "It's all in how you look at things," and poses whimsically by a giant statuary crown. A gray-bearded hippie of the Rockies regards the natural splendor of his landscape and declares, "Some people see mountains. I see personalities."

Got it? Photography is more than just picture taking; it's experience making. So the portion of the spot directed by Blair Hayes is over and the portion directed by David Hwang (of, appropriately, Two Headed Monster productions) begins. Now the voice-over chimes back in with the copy points, the brand benefits, the demo, the sell:

"Now Kodak introduces a new technology that will let you take those pictures further than you've ever imagined. Advantix film and cameras for the Advanced Photo System, a whole new kind of film for a whole new kind of camera, a film so advanced it loads like this [the canister is plopped into the spool cavity] so you're ready to go. Gives you a choice of three photo sizes [sizes shown], and communicates digitally to the photo lab so your pictures can be the best you've ever taken."

Communicate digitally? Huh? More on that later, no doubt. For now, the slogan "Take pictures. Further" speaks volumes. Thanks to the courageous choice not to make a choice, this spot serves both the rational and emotional in 60 informative seconds.

The New Hampshire field should be so lucky.

Copyright February 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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