More than 40 years ago, David Ogilvy sat in front of a camera in India ("It’s very hot," he began) and recorded a frank message to direct marketers.
"You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work," he said. "General advertisers and their agencies know almost nothing for sure, because they cannot measure the results of their advertising. They worship at the altar of creativity."
The two worlds, he said, were on a "collision course."
"I predict that the practitioners of advertising are going to start learning from your experience,’ he said. "You have more to teach them than they have to teach you."
Ogilvy was partly right.
Today, thanks to the rise of digital technology, the line between direct response and general advertising is irreversibly blurred. The number of agencies referring to themselves as "direct" is dwindling, as is the number of ads that can’t be tracked and measured.
But so-called mainstream agencies have never had a monopoly on creativity. For decades, the Caples Awards has celebrated the most ingenious creative work produced by direct marketing agencies around the world, and it’s never lacked for deserving winners.
As the Caples Awards once again opens its call for nominations, here’s a look back at what’s made it an essential part of the direct response community—and why it’s more relevant than ever to advertisers of all kinds.
1. The Caples has been awarding creative uses of data since 1978
The intersection of data and creativity may be the hot topic of the digital age. But, as Ogilvy knew, it’s been the hallmark of direct response advertising for decades. The John Caples Awards (as it was originally known) was founded in 1978 to recognize the most creative uses of data to elicit real, measurable actions from consumers. As general market advertising has increasingly adopted this approach, Caples has welcomed entries from every kind of agency and marketer.
2. John Caples wrote one of the most influential tag lines in advertising
As a young copywriter in 1926 (the year before joining the agency that would become BBDO), John Caples penned the line "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano but When I Started to Play!'' It appeared on a piece of direct-mail that was advertising home piano lessons, and it soon became a cultural catchphrase. Caples went on to become a pioneer in ad testing, advocating that all elements of an ad—not just the copy—be subjected to constant examination.
3. Caples is huge in Australia (and other foreign lands)
Caples is, and always has been, an international awards show. The program maintains international chairs in over 25 countries worldwide, and welcomed entries from more than 24 countries in 2016.
4. The Caples are judged by creatives only!
Tired of account directors judging your brilliant ideas? Caples juries consist entirely of creatives. In 2016, judges represented more than 30 agencies from all over the world. That means the best, most courageous work rises to the top. If you’re interested in taking part, select spots on the 2017 jury are still available.
5. For the first time, Campaign is supporting the Caples Awards in 2017
The Caples Awards and Campaign have a lot in common. They’re both global, they’ve both been around since the days of Polyester and they’re both obsessed with creativity. So, for the first time in 2017, Campaign is thrilled to join our sister publicatoion DMN in supporting Caples. Winners of this year’s Caples awards will be featured on Campaign sites around the world, and members of our editorial team will be on hand at the judging.
6. All entrants receive feedback from our judges
Whether your work wins or not, every entry will receive feedback from Caples judges. That means no guessing why your campaign was (or wasn't) selected. Lots of awards shows talk about wanting to elevate the level of work the industry produces; Caples judges are truly trying to do something about it.
For more information about the 2017 Caples Awards, click here. Nominations are open until March 6.