Patrick Collister of The Caples Awards on a new idea in advertising awards shows: Free.

image-patrick collister-custodian - the caples awards 2021-free-mediabriefIt’s always great to recognize and award creativity and excellence across every field of operations and business, and the discerning professionals know that amongst all the itsy-bitsy awards trade entities keep pushing out with unfailing oiled-assembly-line regularity, there are only a very select few to cherish deeply when won.

The Caples is one such.

Founded in 1978 by copywriter Andi Emerson in honour of legendary copywriter John Caples, The Caples is run by creative people for creative people, to reward work that works.

And it has come up with what’s definitely a great new idea in the space of advertising awards shows. That idea is encapsulated in one of the sweetest four-letter words.


That’s correct. One of the most reputed and sought after award shows, The Caples Awards, has announced that in 2021, it remains the only global show that is free to enter.

So I caught up with Patrick Collister, Custodian of the prestigious Caples Awards, and former executive creative director of Ogilvy London and Head of Design for Google’s ZOO. And now, doing a lot more including as editor of Directory magazine, showcasing innovative marcomms campaigns and working to drive the new-look.

Here’s Patrick at his disarming best. 

Are you for real? Free? No entry fees for the awards this year? I mean, another top international awards show demands anything from 50000 to 200000 Indian Rupees…

This means some of the organisation is a little chaotic — apologies to serviceplan, Austria, who have waited ten months for their trophy — but it also means our principles are very different to other awards organisations.

Where they set out to make money from the awards business, we are in the awards business, from which we hope to make money.

They are not the same.

Many shows have a big gala presentation in an expensive hotel. To sell tickets, they need as many categories as possible and a Gold, Silver and Bronze in each.

The winning work can sometimes be um…not very good.

You can say that again. One keeps seeing trade portals push out awards with clockwork regularity, and they’re mostly about making money from one — the entry fees that are far higher than the ‘stature’ of the awards deserve, and two, the sponsorship fees CMOs  shell out perhaps due to FOMO. And so, as you said, the quality of the winning work is, well, short of ‘winning’…

The Caples’ primary purpose is to recognise and reward great creative work. It’s why our jurors love judging. They are not constrained by commercial requirements.

They are free to hand out as many or as few awards as they see fit.

Here’s a video showcasing some of the kind of brilliant creativity The Caples salute:

When and why did you decide to do away with the entry fees for The Caples? And did the quality of entries suffer?

We pivoted in the pandemic. Early in the spring of 2020, when it felt as if the entire advertising industry was put on pause, we took the decision to make The Caples free to enter.

The result was more than a big increase in entries; there was a shift in quality – upwards.

Small independent agencies submitted work and won, which was as pleasing for the judges as it was for the agencies.

And how were the Caples Awards 2020 received?

They were joyous! The jury was asked to judge generously. To be kind. And to look out for great little ideas as well as the big-budget, video-driven campaigns.

The judges have told us how much they loved the discussions, led by jury President Nicky Bullard, Chairwoman of MRM McCann EMEA.

The awards presentation in Zoom was strangely uplifting. Jurors and winners talked about the work in front of an audience of hundreds.

And we thought, surely this is the way forward?

So The Caples Awards is free from now on.

And you don’t want to make any money.

Of course, we want to make some money. To pay staff costs and to get drunk a couple of times a year with friends; to publish the annual; to grow The Caples community online. To that end, we’re looking for commercial partners to help us grow.

Our ambition is not simply to be one of the world’s largest shows but to be one of the most valued.

Being free to enter is a great place to start.

Tell us what to expect at The Caples Awards 2021?

President of the Jury in 2021 is Steve Aldridge, CCO of Wunderman Thompson London.

The team of judges includes creative leaders from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Germany, India, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, the Philippines, the UAE and the UK.

Judges from the US, who have accepted invitations so far, are Katie Keating, Founder and Joint-CCO of Fancy, New York, and Jonathan Butts, President of Blackwing Creative, San Francisco.

The Caples Awards 2021 are open for entry now. Entry deadline is April 30th.

But let me specify —  there is a second terminal, this-is-it deadline of May 8th for agencies who need it. BUT we will charge for late entries in this final week because of the overtime involved in getting them uploaded and ready for the judges on May 13th.

And what’s the core team that manages The Caples Awards?

Mostly myself with suggestions, exhortations and instructions from Duncan Gray, former Chief Creative Officer of Proximity Worldwide.

Right. Let’s get to the business end now. Tell us about the Entry Kit, rules, the entry gateway etcetera. Andwhen does the judging and presentation take place?

Judging is from May 13th to May 18th.  The presentation will be livestreamed on May 26th.

Ideally from The Groucho Club in London, depending on Covid.

Aspirants can download the Entry Kit with details of categories, rules and how to register and submit workHERE

They can enter work HERE

The Caples Awards 2020 winners can be viewed HERE

And the Caples Awards 2020 Presentation with Sir John Hegarty can be viewed on YouTube HERE

The Caples was originally a show to recognize creativity in Digital Marketing. How has it grown?

The Caples now has a categories for ‘traditional’ advertising and PR as well as categories for ambient, digital, direct mail, experiential, integrated and mobile advertising.

The Caples Awards was the first show to have a Courageous Client award. This is in the jury’s gift to award to any client-side individual who has clearly invested in and put faith in creativity.

The Andi Emerson Award is the President’s personal recognition of an individual who has given exceptional service to the creative community.

In 2020, the Andi Emerson Award was presented to Emma de la Fosse, Chief Creative Officer of Digitas UK, for championing inclusivity and diversity in UK creative departments.

In 2019, CEO and Founder of Shackleton Group Iberia Pablo Alzugaray was the honoree.

In 2018, David Droga, Founder of Droga5, was the recipient.

image-Meera-Sharath Chandra of Tigress Tigress on the Jury of The Caples Awards 2021 - MediaBriefWe also reached out to brilliant creative professional Meera Sharath Chandra, Founder CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Tigress Tigress, who is back on The Caples Awards jury for the second time for a quick comment.

Meera said she’s hoping to see more Indian entries while she’s judging this year. “Success at The Caples Awards works as a barometer – it informs recognition at festivals that follow. The show green lights exceptionally creative, refreshingly unique and sharply-focused work and puts entries on the global radar. I am thrilled to be on the jury again this year. I look forward to many more Indian entries this time. A victory at Caples will be a great way to start that winning streak.”

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