Proximity Leads the Winners at Caples

NEW YORK — Proximity London and Proximity BBDO France each walked away with a Maxwell Sackheim Award for Best of Show at last night's 27th John Caples International Awards ceremony.

This year's contest of creative executives judging creative work broke the mold for Caples: two top awards to a couple agencies sharing the same brand. What did not change was the winning streak of foreign direct and interactive marketing agencies over U.S. shops.

“I thought the non-U.S. entries were overall superior to the U.S.,” said Gary Scheiner, co-director of the Caples judging committee and former senior vice president and creative director at MRM Partners New York. “I think they took more chances. They used more emerging technologies. They did true integrated campaigns that were more innovative than anything I've seen here.”

Proximity London won the top honor for client Save the Children's “Skip a Treat” effort in the consumer nonprofit multimedia campaign category. That entry also won a first-place Caples.

Proximity BBDO France took another Best of Show for an in-house campaign called “” in the business single-medium campaign category.

Shackleton Direct in the Spanish capital of Madrid won Caples' courageous client award for NBC Universal. The “Another Reality” effort was submitted in the business multimedia campaign category.

Caples also honored Steve Bassett, executive creative director of The Martin Agency, Richmond, VA. He received the Irving Wunderman Award for lifetime creative achievement. The Andi Emerson Award for lifetime outstanding service to direct and interactive marketing went to Jon Roska, CEO and chief creative officer of DM agency Roska Direct, Montgomeryville, PA.

But the night belonged to Proximity. Its agencies took 24 Caples awards, accounting for 18 percent of those handed out this year. Teams from the OgilvyOne Worldwide network followed with 16 awards. Draft Inc. and Martin each received six.

Proximity's outposts worldwide recently bagged top honors at the U.S. Direct Marketing Association's Echo awards, International Advertising Festival's Cannes Lions and several regional and domestic contests. Proximity was the most awarded agency brand worldwide in 2004, according to Kent, England-based Won Report's analysis.

So what is it about non-U.S. agencies regularly winning top prizes at Caples and other shows?

“Just in general, the societies, the cultures overseas are a lot more relaxed,” Scheiner said. “Look at general advertising in Europe and Asia. They're not as uptight, they're not afraid to take chances. I was talking to one of the international creative directors, and it was a joke — his audience was his universe. His universe is so much smaller than in the United States. They don't have the ability to do segmentation market tests. The marketplace is the test. So if they think their strategy is right and their messaging is right, they put it out there.”

However, most of the winning agency brands are U.S.-owned. Omnicom Group Inc., New York, owns Proximity. Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., New York, owns Draft and Martin. Only OgilvyOne is part of British-owned, but U.S.-weighted, WPP Group PLC.

Caples can take satisfaction from this year's uptick in the number of entries, as 1,055 were received. Caples garnered about 950 entries last year, down 14 percent from 2003's estimated 1,100. Of entries submitted this year, 15 won first place, 53 gained second place and 62 took third place for a total of 130 winning entries. Another 143 were finalists.

What can lift the boat for Caples to relive its glory days are better branding, more volunteer participation and higher judging standards.

Scheiner and judging co-director John Bellina, executive creative director of San Francisco-based Publicis Hal Riney, tied the laces tighter for the 2005 Caples.

“The judging was a lot tougher this year,” Scheiner said. “That was a big goal of John Bellina and myself, especially when it got down to the final day of judging. I said, 'Look at this and determine if this is what you wish you had in your portfolio.' In the history of Caples, I've always found the winners to be very sporadic — some great work mixed in with some very mediocre. But I've found in the last four years the work has gotten better, the judging progressively tougher and the work that's winning is much better than in the past.”

Founded in 1978 by direct marketing veteran Andi Emerson, Caples is named for famed BBDO copywriter John Caples. The all-volunteer industry effort honors outstanding creative work for DM problems. But fierce competition from the Echo awards and Cannes Lions has curbed Caples' growth. U.S. agencies clearly are enamored of a win in the French Riviera town of Cannes. For foreign shops, however, the grass is greener on the other side.

“The trend seems to be that more Americans are using their limited dollars for award show entries for the prestigious Cannes Lions awards, and a lot of Europeans seem to be doing the opposite,” Scheiner said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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