Rob Banks' Caples Awards Diary: Day 1

photo1.jpgRob Banks, senior creative at DraftFCB, Auckland reports from the Caples Awards in New York, exclusively for CB.

In a show of national pride I start the day Hobbit styles. Which means Double Breakfast. Eggs Hollandaise at the hotel - and after a scary-ass high-speed cab ride from mid-town to SoHo - bagels with Kwaafee.

74 Mercer, the Caples judging venue, is one of those typical vast, high-ceilinged, slightly shabby-chic New York loft spaces. I half expect Tim Gunn to appear and instruct us to 'make it work, people'.
photo2.jpgThankfully he doesn't. Instead, Gary Scheiner from digital shop Rosetta - and chief judge - talks us through the rules of engagement. Basically, it's 'abstain from judging your own agency's work, tell us if you think something's in the wrong category'...yada, yada.
 
Right, to work. Crikey, there's a lot of it. Over 700 entries in fact. Only photo3.jpgit's not laid out on miles of trestle tables like most other award gigs. Here, the boards are velcroed to exhibition stands. If they're still up there at the end of the day, they're through to Round Two tomorrow. If they're not then, well...they're not.
 
The good news is, our group is judging Ambient and Guerilla. Excellent. Now obviously I can't tell you here what passed and what failed because they'll send Bruce Willis and helicopters - and I'll be picking up the soap in Rykers Island quicker than you can say 'call me Dolores'.
 
So instead, here are some of my personal highlights and lowlights. After an hour or two of some pretty average work, a 'take one' flyer for a Swiss Tattoo expo catches my eye. It also catches my nose because it's tattooed onto decomposing pig skin...well pig flesh really, about half an inch thick. To take the details you have to literally tear a chunk of flesh away. Apparently, these things were nailed to trees in one of Basel's grungier 'hoods. Nice.
 
Less impressive - and also from Switzerland - was some toilet bowl stickers with a nasty brown smear on them saying something about 'shorter skidmarks at Tire Joes'. Yikes.
 
Then the V-Motion Project pops up and I feel a sudden surge of national pride. This surge turns into something moderately less enjoyable when some Austrian ambient for a taxi firm hoves into view. Yep, you guessed it...it's a phone number printed on the bottom of a beer glass. Surely there should be something in the rules about these by now?
 
That pleasant surge returns with the 'Pedigree Donation Glasses' entry. Cinema-goers that donate to the Pedigree Adoption Drive on their way into the movies are handed some yellow glasses to wear while watching a movie about an abused dog - which has a happy ending. Non-givers are handed a different set of specs and see the same movie, but with a very non-happy ending. It's then I notice the hard-boiled Italian-American sitting next to me suddenly has something in his eye.
 
Then, late in the day, something a wee bit dangerous and nasty disrupts the orderly flow of the sensible, solid and safe across our judging table.
 
It's a stunt for German beer brand Sternberg - the choice of hard core activists and public agitators apparently. In a defining moment of lunacy, their agency used an ex-Polizei riot squad van to serve free bottles of Sternberg to a large gathering of their target market. Not in the beer aisle at a local supermarket of course, but in the midst of an angry public demonstration - and right under the very unimpressed noses of the van's previous owners.
 
There's brave. And there's stupidly brave. I'll let you decide where to sit on this one. I'm off to the Royalton for a cup of tea and a lie down.

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