The John Caples International Awards has expanded its database of creative directors from 300 last year to 750 so far as it tries to rally the global direct marketing community around its annual event.
That database also is fertile ground for Caples judges. Assembling each November in New York, the judges critique entries from around the world for an awards show that honors creative excellence in direct marketing.
“These are current names, which is unbelievable with the amount of turnover and change the industry has had of late,” said Holly Pavlika, executive vice president and executive creative director of Grey Direct, New York, and board member in charge of Caples judging.
Caples this year attracted about 110 judges from a dozen countries including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Belgium and newcomers Sweden, India and Chile.
Caples organizers — all volunteers from the agency world — want to turn the judging event into a chance for creative directors to network and share best practices.
Consider what happened this month while the judging process was on. Three creative directors were invited from Scotland, New Zealand and Chile to speak about DM in the lunch break. A question-and-answer session followed.
“We had to stop the questions and get back to the judging, such was the enthusiasm,” Pavlika said. “We'll definitely be continuing this as a Caples tradition next year.”
Most of the judges e-mail each other year-round for research information or networking opportunities. And many of them had never met before. But Pavlika aims to change that by encouraging more participation.
“Everyone who judges Caples walks away inspired to go back and do great work,” she said. “We want to keep that inspiration fired up all year long.”
Entries were down from last year at a little over 900. Yet the country representation stayed stable: Japan, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, France, Belgium, Argentina, Portugal, Switzerland, Singapore, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong and the United States.
Caples competes with awards shows from small and large organizations. The Direct Marketing Association's Echo show in the fall and the International Advertising Festival's Lions Direct and Cyber Lions in June are major rivals to Caples' shindig in February.
Around for 25 years, the nonprofit Caples does need to reinvent itself. The judging/networking sessions are an example. A planned e-mail newsletter with articles from around the world is another. And a chat room is under consideration, helping make Caples a year-round phenomenon.
“Our industry needs to inspire people,” Pavlika said. “With the economic challenges we're facing, many of the old-time direct marketing folks are no longer a part of the industry in an active way, and it seems like a lot of new blood is opting to seek employment in other industries.
“We need to bring back the excitement of doing direct marketing and elevate its cachet,” she said. “It's time for the next generation of creatives to rise.”