Saatchi captures teen emotion for Kodak

he Kodak brand's emotional connection to consumers is deeply rooted. And since teen girls' heartstrings are often inextricably linked to their purse strings, Saatchi & Saatchi attempted to give both a tug in marketing Kodak's single-use camera.
October 1, 2002

The Kodak brand’s emotional connection to consumers is deeply rooted. And since teen girls’ heartstrings are often inextricably linked to their purse strings, Saatchi & Saatchi attempted to give both a tug in marketing Kodak’s single-use camera.

‘A higher-level goal for the entire youth marketing initiative was to develop a brand affinity for Kodak amongst teen girls ages 12 to 17, with a focus on 14- to 15-year-olds,’ says Eric Lent, director of consumer imaging with Eastman Kodak, Atlanta. ‘On a functional level, we wanted to develop a piece of advertising establishing Kodak cameras as more than just picture-taking devices, using one-time-use cameras to build a deeper brand affinity.’

The spot – ‘Tribes’ – aired nationally on teen-targeted network and cable outlets, with The WB and MTV receiving the heaviest rotation. These channels were deemed the best route to reach the campaign target of 17 million teen girls. The spot’s tone addressed the mindset that research by Saatchi’s Kid Connection division attributed to the target market.

‘Girls ages 14 to 17 are a lot less cynical than X-ers or boomers,’ says Saatchi creative director Marc Cacciatore. ‘Gen Y kids do social work in their community and have a positivity and hopefulness we didn’t have. The challenge was how to make Kodak cool and reflect those values.’

So rather than take the sarcastic route, Saatchi creatives tapped Kodak’s core equity – the emotional moment – in creating a realistic clique-busting message: ‘This is a camera that can take pictures of what’s going on inside you, not just around you,’ says Cacciatore. ‘It’s all about a lens you can turn inward.’

‘Tribes’ opens with a teen girl snapping pictures of kids from different lunchroom factions, then creating a collage of unlikely pairings such as a cheerleader and a goth. The emotional nuance of the spot is bolstered by music – a touching, acoustic rendition of the War classic ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ sung by Cacciatore’s wife Laura Harding.

‘There is a fine line between schmaltz and something that can touch you deeply,’ Cacciatore admits. ‘Filming ‘Tribes’ was about knowing when to back off. [Director] Errol Morris caught real kids in unguarded moments, making the spot look real. A lot of other kid commercials feel like bad Saturday morning Saved By The Bell sitcoms.’ Filmed over a week in Sydney, Australia, Morris chose to go with a real kid cast for the spot, and since ‘Tribes’ does not involve dialogue, Australians were able to stand in for American teens.

The creative grew out of primary and secondary research, much of it furnished by Kid Connection. ‘Many girls we interviewed said they would like to have another hour in the day to meet kids from other cliques, which they belong to only to survive and function from a practical standpoint,’ says Cacciatore.

Kid Connection and Saatchi conducted extensive interviews with teen girls at home, in school and ‘in their world’ and concluded that teens live in an idealized reality and would like to change the world. They also want to break down the silos that exist at school and share a part of themselves with others, but they want to do so in an unthreatening and creative way. And Saatchi determined that photography could be viewed a means to social connection and self-expression.

Kodak was pleased with the resulting sales, which remained strong even post-9/11 (the ad first began airing at the end of August 2001, finishing its run in May 2002). ‘We saw penetration jump about six points and sales increase by millions of units,’ says Lent.

‘Tribes’ was the highest-scoring ad in Kodak history, with test scores (measured in 2001) as follows: Awareness 13 (norm 5), Branding 46 (norm 35), Enjoyment 58 (norm 31), Active Positive Involvement 225 (norm 140) and Aided Communication 52 (no norm).

Lent, who has been with Kodak for nearly four years, says ‘Tribes’ generated more consumer response than has anything else during his tenure. Comments Lent received via e-mail from the spot’s teen target included: ‘I wanted to tell you how absolutely beautiful the commercials for Kodak cameras are, especially the girl who goes around taking pictures and makes a collage. It really touched me and honestly made me want to purchase a Kodak camera.’ Others praised corporate America for documenting ‘the trials and tribulations of being a freak in high school’ and called the spot ‘the most astonishing commercial I have ever seen.’

Each year, Kodak launches new work during the crucial back-to-school season. The latest execution, which debuted in late August, pushes a new product called the Kodak Picture CD. Released in June, the gadget allows users to enhance and modify photos as well as share them via e-mail. The spot – an extension of Kodak’s youth-targeted ‘Share Moments. Share Life’ campaign and its goal to reflect teen market diversity – portrays a teen using the product to show her deaf best friend (who has recently moved away) how much she is missed with the help of a few friends who have learned sign language.

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