Moving Ad Awards Shows Online During COVID-19, How’s it Going? – The Caples Awards

While a lot of the annual advertising awards show decided to cancel this year amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, many have opted to instead move the entire operation online.

As part of an ongoing series, we thought it would be interesting to ask them to share with our readers the experience of running everything online for the first time.

This time we talk with Patrick Collister, Custodian of The Caples Awards in the U.K.


Tell us about the decision to continue with the awards despite social-distancing policies?

We decided to make The Caples free to enter. It was not an easy decision. At a time when jobs, companies, and lives are being lost, advertising awards can look decidedly trivial. I took counsel from a number of Chief Creative Officers I respect. One, in particular, made it clear that when his business was struggling for survival, struggling for recognition was irrelevant.

Others were supportive. Mark Fiddes, CCO of Havas UAE wrote: “Massive challenges for all. Client spend drying up, creatives working 16 hours a day alone in their garrets. This (The Caples) is the kind of morale boost a lot of us need right now.”

How did you conduct your awards this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We did everything by email and in Zoom. Because The Caples is an international awards show, we are based in London but have jurors in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, and across Europe. The different time zones meant it wasn’t possible to get everyone together all at the same time. The awards presentation started at 6 pm in London on May 13th which was 1 am in Singapore, 3 am in Sydney and 5 am in Auckland.

How did entries compare with the previous year?

There was greater depth than last year in that we have had a 500% increase in entries. In fact, we were engulfed and it was 16 hour days for our small team to get the work uploaded.


There was greater breadth, too in that we have had more work at both ends of the scale, more outstanding work, and more work which didn’t get shortlisted. What was exactly the same as last year is the fact so many agencies leave it to the last moment to enter despite the site being open from January. And even four days after the closing date for entries I awoke to 18 entries from one of our judges, who knew the dates since December.

There are some good perks with being a judge. What was the reaction of the jury members to participating remotely?

We will be mailing the judges some of the goodies. Sir John Hegarty gave a talk to the jury on Wednesday 13th. We drank his wine (he has a vineyard in France) as he spoke and I’m not sure if we can mail bottles to the far side of the world.

“We decided to make The Caples free to enter. It was not an easy decision. At a time when jobs, companies, and lives are being lost, advertising awards can look decidedly trivial.”

The awards dinner won’t be going ahead at the Groucho Club. We don’t charge people to attend so we have saved some expense, I suppose. So the plan is to have a party in a pub when we are let out of house arrest, perhaps early autumn. I’m afraid it will be very UK-centric but we are going to need to let off steam, aren’t we?

What were some of the biggest pros and cons of conducting an award show?


We have had more entries from more agencies. From top agencies who eschewed The Caples in the past but also, pleasingly, from small agencies who may not have entered before because of expense or the feeling they would be muscled out by the big boys. I really do hope some of these pick up awards so that they incentivize other similar agencies next year.


We weren’t prepared for the avalanche of entries. We should have left more time to be able to process them all properly. And, perhaps, to have put in place a pre-judging phase with local creative directors eliminating the work that doesn’t stand a chance win order to present the jury of top bananas with a shortlist of serious contenders. Also, because of the time zones we need another day for the judges to look at the work.

We brought forward the briefing so judges could start looking at the work on Friday the 8th rather than Monday 11th – but it does mean UK jurors had to work on a bank holiday – and all jurors had to give up some of their weekend.

What was something that you particularly liked about doing it this way?

There is a lovely spirit of camaraderie and many of the entrants sent us messages of support and goodwill which we have appreciated hugely.

The Caples is getting 30 very different people with very different opinions in a room together to talk about creativity and its importance in building brands and businesses. We agree furiously! I’m wasn’t sure if this could be replicated virtually.

Do you think this could be a trend for future awards shows?

The Caples is a show run by creatives for creatives. Of course, it’s a business but it was not set up to make money, it was set up to recognize great work. So running it as a free festival is a very distinct possibility. Obviously, we need to make enough money to pay salaries and office costs so we need to make money somehow.

This year we are not giving out trophies but are selling them and have made it clear that we have put an extra £200 on the unit costs of each. So we shall see how many or how few of the winners will want to buy the actual awards.


Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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