DM industry reflects on Caples queen contributions

Caples founder Andi Emerson passed away on February 13 at age 82 after a long struggle with emphysema. She leaves behind a reputation for determination and a high-profile awards program that celebrated and fostered the creative direct marketing community.

“Andi was an incredibly talented and driven individual,” said Caples Board SVP of strategy and development, Larry Kimmel, who also serves as chairman/CEO of G2 Direct & Digital. “She had an unbelievable ability to galvanize individuals for the betterment of the creative community.”

Emerson founded the John Caples International Awards in 1978 to honor the BBDO copywriter, John Caples. In 1990, the Caples Group introduced the Andi Emerson Award, to honor individuals who contribute outstanding service to the Direct Marketing creative community. Emerson was the award’s first recipient.

A leader in direct marketing education, Emerson wrote and published articles, taught DM classes at New York University and lectured at other universities in the US and overseas. Her series of articles, The Magic Seven: Paths to Success in a Direct Response Product Launch, written for DMNews in 1986, was widely praised.

Emerson was an early advocate for the adoption of digital marketing strategies by the industry, having recognized the potential in 1968. She was also an innovator in her own right, having been the first to put variable messages on the front of a major catalog operation for IBM. She is also responsible for attaching personalized Post-its to self-mailers.

However, she is best known for her leadership of the Caples. The competition’s tagline “creative solutions to direct marketing problems” has crossed borders during the 29 years that Emerson reigned as “Queen of Caples.” Now represented in more than 40 countries, the event involves international entrants and judges, due in large part to Emerson’s efforts to extend the show.

Emerson passed the baton as president for the upcoming 30th show to Patrick Fultz, president/CCO of DM Creative Group LLC.

Fultz described Emerson as a “Katharine Hepburn type”, referring to both her intellect and her forceful personality. In an earlier career she was a runway model, and she maintained that strong stage presence as she presided over each year’s Caples show.

“She was one of the smartest people I know,” Fultz said, adding that in training him to take over leadership of the awards, she revealed not only a broad knowledge of the industry, but also a commitment to knowing the names, career milestones and personal lives of those involved with Caples.

Stephan Juhasz, VP of Events on Caples, recalled being “forced” into volunteer Caples service 15 years ago and has been “grateful for the privilege” ever since, he says. Not only did he credit Emerson with the ability to run a tremendously well-regarded event on a shoestring budget, but for building a community for direct marketing creatives to rub elbows and celebrate the work.

Emerson became partner at Eugene Stevens Inc. in 1957, before starting her own firm The Emerson Marketing Agency Inc. in 1960. Emerson remained president of that company until her death.

Emerson leaves behind four children and several grandchildren. At the time of publication, there were no formal plans announced for a memorial service.

DMNews invites the industry to use the comment function on our Web site to share your thoughts and memories of the DM icon.

Howard Draft, chairman and chief executive at Draftfcb, told DMNews, “Andi was a force of nature. She always had an opinion, and she was never afraid to express it. Despite her health problems these past few years, she worked harder than ever to maintain the status of the Caples Awards as a showcase for the world’s most innovative direct and interactive marketing campaigns. Our industry owes her a huge debt of thanks. 

“Andi has left a great legacy with the Caples, though the award ceremony just won’t be the same without hearing her express her always strong opinions and stage directions from the audience. We will miss her,” Draft said.

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