Caples 2018: Jeff Harris talks less DM and more digital, activation, experiential and social

For the past 39 years, the Caples Awards have taken place in New York. Now it’s in London, so it’s only fitting that we, the judges – all twenty of us from all corners of the marketing world are convening at a pub, the Great Guns Social to be precise. And it’s a very nice one, nestled in deep, darkest Southwark – a mere stones’ throw from what has now become ground zero for hipsters and Kiwi baristas.

To top it off, London was basking in a rare bit of summer sunshine happiness, following a Royal Wedding and an FA Cup Final. But we were here to recognise and reward ‘work that works’. And joining the new Caples Awards owners, Patrick Collister, editor of Directory and Duncan Gray (BHWG founding partner) in celebrating its 40th anniversary.

So that certainly deserved a drink.

But what about the work? Would a shift from the centre of the old advertising world (New York) to a scaled down version with just 12 categories and a sharper and clearer focus actually deliver? After all, this is a reboot of sorts – Caples 2.0 if you like. Well, let me tell you, I’ve judged in New York and it was an exhausting but heady experience. Every day, literally truck-loads of DM packs (it was a few years ago) were delivered to our table. It was a mammoth task to sort the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes the odd piece of genius popped up, but after three days you were happy just to see anything that wasn’t a Hawaiian-shirt-incentive-holiday-cruise-promo thing.

By contrast, this year there were very few physical DM pieces. How times change, now the bulk of the entries are made up of digital, activation, experiential and social. The sheer variety and quality of thinking was amazing and inspiring. Some pieces were firm favourites from the very first day. Others needed some help to tease out the juice. But we had some real corkers. And at the end of day one we had a result. One Gold. Yup. Just one. Clearly, we were a hard crowd to please.

So, the next day we went at it again and with the benefit of a bit of reflection, a little less jet lag we had a more considered and representative shortlist of Bronze, Silvers and Golds.

And we certainly had some stand-out work.

We had some gorgeous work from an agency from Belgium called Happiness (my favourite agency name ever) with a beautiful piece of work for Carlsberg, wherein they created a 17 -minute TEDx Talk and brought Carlsberg founder, Jacob Christian Jacobsen back to life via a hologram to deliver a speech about ‘Why you should answer every question with probably’.

Was it going to be a winner? We said yes. Probably.

We then had a bunch of entries from CHE Proximity in Sydney. All were superb. Two of them really stood out. One became Best in Show. But more of that later. One of my absolute favourites was a piece for Swann Insurance. The problem – how do you engage motorcyclists in a pretty dull product category – bike insurance. Research showed that riders were using their motorbikes less as they grew older – with the average rider getting on their bike just twice a month. To combat this, they created ‘Inconvenience Stores’ and located them miles away from town. Now picking up the milk and toilet rolls meant making a very long trip and the perfect excuse to jump on their bike. Beauty.

As for the reduced number of categories, my favourite was by far and away the Radical New Strategy category. Some really smart thinking was found here and most of our Golds too.

No coincidence.

So, the overall most liked, the most instantly admired and the piece that most, if not all of us had wished we had done?

A second-hand car sales website.

Yes, you can just see the brief: ‘We want people to list their old car on our website. FOR FREE!’ So far so boring. But here’s the thing. Here’s the bit that made us laugh, really laugh, and when it’s all said and done, when all the arguments, all the back and forth between creatives, suits, planners and the client is over. Here is what you are left with – a beautifully crafted piece of insightful creative that got results. Big results. The solution? Create a platform that was capable of generating over 1.2 trillion possible combinations of used car ads, ensuring that no two ads were ever the same. Inspired by the big car brands advertising tropes. ‘Carsales AutoAds’ was designed to give everyone selling their second-hand car their very own one-of-a-kind, expensive-feeling car ad. Customers could choose any one of five cliched car ads, from Family and Adventure, to the most popular – Luxury.

Over 5,000 ads are still being generated every day. That’s a great result.

So, amongst all the great work with less categories to judge and some great conversations with some of the smartest and nicest CDs you’ll ever meet – we got to be part of a revitalised and re-focussed Caples Awards in its 40th year. In a pub. How good is that?

To see all the winning work, visit: www.caples.org

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