British Entry for Macallan Scotch Wins Top Caples

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NEW YORK -- Who would have guessed that a mail piece called "A Study of Albanian Shopping Malls" would win the best of show at last night's 24th John Caples International Awards Showcase?


That entry from WWAV Rapp Collins Scotland, Edinburgh, for client Highland Distillers' The Macallan single malt Scotch whisky garnered almost 33 percent response.


About 5,000 Britons who received the dimensional mailer in December 2000 saw a mundane looking book whose pages were hollowed out to hide a miniature bottle of the whisky. An enclosed mail-in card was the response mechanism.


The idea was to get them to sample the $31 Macallan, which competes with other single malt labels such as Glenmorangie, Glenlivet and, to a lesser extent, the more mass-market Glenfiddich.


"People tend to be very loyal to the whisky they drink, so that means potentially you're talking to an audience that has fairly fixed ideas about what they will or won't drink," said Paul Readman, creative director at WWAV Rapp Collins Scotland. "The challenge was to actually get them to overcome those fixed perceptions and get the drink in front of them and get them to sample it."


WWAV Rapp Collins Scotland's win was one of seven first-place Caples Awards bagged this year by British direct marketing agencies. The United States followed with four first-place awards and Australia with three. Shops from Brazil, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Ireland and Germany won a first-place award apiece.


Founded in 1978 by Andi Emerson, president of New York-based Emerson Marketing, the Caples Awards are named for John Caples, a famed copywriter who spent 56 years at advertising agency BBDO.


Last year, 14 foreign and nine U.S. agencies won first-place Caples awards. This year, the respective numbers were 16 foreign and four U.S. The Martin Agency, Richmond, VA, last year won best of show. While deprived of that honor this year, Martin did walk away with two first-place awards, or half of the U.S. tally. OgilvyOne Worldwide and The Verdi Group bagged one first-place award each.


Mirroring a trend witnessed by other direct marketing industry awards, Caples is seeing more enthusiasm from overseas. International entries this year accounted for 64 percent of the 350-odd finalists earning first-, second- or third-place awards. In all, 24 countries sent entries, nine more than last year.


Across boundaries, awards went to only 95 entries in 37 categories: 20 first-, 36 second- and 39 third-place winners. Six percent of the finalists made it to first place. And 17 Caples categories had no winners. Overall, 52 percent of the award-winning entries were from larger shops as opposed to independent or smaller agencies. Last year, big agencies accounted for 53 percent of all winners.


The Caples are judged on a point system, so if entries do not score enough points to get first place, there is no first-place prize in that category. And if two or more entries have enough first-place points, then both get the top honors.


A few changes were made this year in the judging process. This time, committee chairmen were named for both the East and West Coasts to gain more judging participation. Plus, there was a chief judge for the United States and another for overseeing international entries.


In another tweak, creative directors were asked to judge the first and second rounds as part of a three-person team. The other two members of this judging team were art directors or copywriters experienced in direct marketing. This was "so that the good stuff made it to the final round," said Holly Pavlika, head of the entire judging process and newly named executive vice president and executive creative director at Grey Direct, New York.


The third round was judged for art, copy and concept by six-person teams, including highly experienced creative directors and executive directors.


Finally, categories like dimensional mail this time were broken down by cost per piece "so lower cost per mailing could compete against each other rather than somebody who had [spent] $100 a piece for each mailing," Pavlika said. "We did the same with broadcast from a production value [standpoint]."


This time, the Caples entries were judged at the New York University Center for Direct Marketing. Many students of the school were instrumental in helping the judges translate foreign-language submissions.


"For the first time this year, all of the entries will go to the NYU graduate school of direct marketing for use in research by students," said Connie LaMotta, chairwoman of the Caples publicity committee and president of LaMotta Strategic Communications, Upper Nyack, NY.


Meanwhile, though submissions from the United States represented solid work, there was no visible trend, said Bruce Lee, a three-time judge of Caples and senior partner and North America creative director at OgilvyOne, New York.


"The funny thing is, I was looking for that," Lee said. "No one particular kind of thing stood out."


It was a different story with international entries. Duncan Gray, executive creative director at Proximity UK, London, felt the quality of entries had better execution.


"I thought the ideas were much cleaner, much more pronounced this year, rather than things which were rather overdressed just as an exercise in card skills or putting something in the box," Gray said. "That's what we encourage over here. We're looking for ideas that are brave, well executed. We definitely look for ideas that either draws your attention or convert into a sale."


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