Vintage Leica Ads: 1925-1937 Marketing the Wetzlar Wunderkind and its Illustrious Offspring

Jun 7, 2019  By Jason Schneider

The original Leica I (model A) created a sensation the instant it was unveiled at the Leipzig Fair of 1925. Its phenomenal success was based on its ingenious and forward-looking design concept, superb mechanical and optical execution, amazing image quality, and elegantly engaging, ergonomic form factor.  In a very real sense it advertised itself, and the very first Leica ads of 1925 were little more than product announcements showing the gorgeous camera and listing its revolutionary features. But by Christmas of that year, the marketing mavens realized that even something as unique and superlative as the Leica could benefit from real promotional ads, and they never looked back. From the ‘20s to the ‘80s Leitz and Leica unleashed an extraordinary series of Leica ads extolling the Leica’s precision, performance, and features, announcing new models, and in effect, burnishing the Leica legend.

As you can see by perusing the 30+ Leica ads featured herein, they vary from compelling to cornball, incisive to pedestrian, persuasive to predictable. Some have brilliant tag lines and compelling graphics, others not so much. Some are charming period pieces with images and words that reflect the style of the day, others are timeless classics, and one features an exaggerated racial stereotype that would be unacceptable today (though sadly ads of that type were hardly unusual back in ’49.) Most of the ads we’ve included feature cameras, but a few are focused on lenses and accessories. All these ads ultimately contributed to the Leica’s long-term success by establishing the brand as the embodiment of excellence, promoting its sterling virtues, unsurpassed performance and precision, and maintaining its preeminent position in the public eye. Fundamentally these ads were effective not because of their persuasive brilliance, but because what they were advertising always exceeded expectations. Ultimately what really sets the Leica apart—is the Leica itself! 

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