The Caples Awards were founded by the BBDO copywriter Andi Emerson back in 1978. By all accounts, she was quite a scary person.
Well, creative people often are.
Because they believe passionately in the power of creativity to open minds that are closed, open doors that are locked and open wallets that offer refuge for moths of many kinds. She noticed that many Direct Marketing awards shows at the time gave prizes to work that boasted nice numbers.
But creatively they were dire.
From the very beginning, The Caples has been about the quality of the work. Because Andi’s view (and ours, all these years later) is that better work works better.
A clever strategy and precise targeting can lead to double-digit results. But with added creativity, a campaign can go 10x. Ten-fold results. 100% response. And, over the years, The Caples has the campaigns to prove it.
We don’t have a big beano in a swanky hotel when it’s dinner time. That’s how the tail wags the dog.
Andi passed away in 2008. At pretty much the time that Direct was turning form ‘folding shit’ to the most interesting advertising category of them all.
Win a Gold in Direct at Cannes at the beginning of the week and you were a hot contender for a Titanium on the closing day. With no-one to love The Caples, the show slowly began to lose its luster.
Until, ta-dah, the fanfare of trumpets and much excitement, in 2017, on the very edge of expiration, two ex-creative directors raised the capital necessary to buy the show from its owners.
Yup, a whole dollar.
That’s what it cost. But by that time, the show was a pale shadow of its former self. Only creative crazies would take it on.
But Duncan Gray, ex-Worldwide Creative Leader for Proximity, and Patrick Collister, former ECD of Ogilvy & Mather London and Google’s Zoo (NACE) were insane enough to put in 50cents each and go for it.
Oh, and spend a bit on a new website, on a small dedicated team, on advertising and on hosting the 2019 show at the famous Groucho Club in London.
The new-look Caples has fewer than half the number of categories it had in previous times. That is because the aim is not to screw as much money as possible out of agencies, entering the same idea dozens of times, but to encourage more greater depth and breadth of entry.
Similarly, we don’t have a big beano in a swanky hotel when it’s dinner time. That’s how the tail wags the dog. A big hotel means many tables you have to sell. So you need more categories and Gold, Silvers and Bronzes in each one because then you can lure agencies to the function.
And make lots of money.
Idiots that Duncan and Patrick are, they want the jury to be free. Free to give as many, or as few, awards as they see fit. Maybe that’s why the jurors come at their own expense from the four corners of the world.
This year, around 30 seriously impressive creative directors are congregating in London for no other reason than to join a community that still believes in the power of creativity to grow markets, create wealth and provide employment.
As a thank you, the jury is given an exclusive presentation each year.
In 2018 Steve Harrison, former founder and CCO of Wunderman Troughton Harrison gave a talk, which is about to be published in book form as “Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell”.
And in 2019, Rory Sutherland riffed around his new book “Alchemy” in a brilliant session of stand-up and intellectual bravura.
In 2020, The Caples approached a famous creative director of yesteryear to be the speaker. He asked for a lot of money to address the jury in May.
“You’re a business. I’m a business,” he said, with admirable brevity.
But the big difference between The Caples and all other awards is this:
They exist to make money by handing out awards. The Caples exists to hand out awards, from which it may one-day make money. Something Sir John Hegarty grasped, sing his name in praise.
He is giving the jury address this May for free.
If you’d like to see who would be looking at your work, were you to enter The Caples, go to caples.org.
Even better, you can go here. Then, as Duncan says, “You become one of us.”