AFFINITY’s Luke Brown on how his agency became a world leader in effectiveness


“Our entire business is built on delivering commercial outcomes”


The IMAA, the national, not for profit industry association for independent media agencies launched in 2020.

Since then it has continued to grow its membership base and make a series of big announcements, including its trade credit deal and a number of new media partners.

Mediaweek has been profiling members of the IMAA – previous features can be found here. This week we spoke to Luke Brown, CEO and founder of AFFINITY.

Brown got a job in an ad agency as soon as he finished high school and continued to study marketing at night. Over the following years, he worked in a mix of advertising, digital and media agencies, before setting out on his own in 2002, with his business partner Angela Smith then joining in 2003.

The pair positioned the agency around a full service creative and media offering that focused on delivering smart brand work. After attending the SXSW festival, the agency had an epiphany and hired a data scientist, a move that went on to become the backbone of their business. 

In the last five years alone, AFFINITY has won 70+ global and local effectiveness awards across multiple clients, and have made the WARC Effective 100 list four times. The latest rankings saw them placed number two in the world.

Q: The WARC award is exciting. How did this happen and what does this mean for your agency?

A: “It’s really exciting! To quote WARC, “the WARC Effective 100 is a ranking of the world’s most awarded campaigns and companies for effectiveness.” Essentially, it’s to marketing effectiveness what the Gunn Report is to recognising creativity. It tracks the results of effectiveness award shows around the world, and provides an overall benchmark for excellence in effectiveness, allowing marketers to compare their performance with that of their peers.

“AFFINITY’s won a significant number of global effectiveness awards across various campaigns over the past 12-18 months. And if I look at the work that’s been recognised – and think back to that 2012 epiphany – I can say that they’ve all used different types of data in unique and innovative ways. One of our campaigns was ranked at number seven in the WARC Top 100 effective campaigns globally, which is the second time we’ve had work in the top 10. And as I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth time in the last five years we’ve been in the WARC Digital/Specialist Top 100.

“Ultimately, this level of recognition is a massive validation of our outcomes-focused business model and unmatched consistency over a long period of time.”

Q: What does AFFINITY offer its clients outside of just its practical skills?

“Like many businesses during the pandemic, we went through a period of self-examination in order to really focus on what makes us unique. During this process we quickly realised that while most other agencies defined themselves by their output – advertising, digital, PR, CX, etc – the sheer variety of work we’d been delivering, and the impact of what we’re doing for our clients, was our differentiator.    

“This is why our entire business is built on delivering commercial outcomes rather than just marketing outputs. And it’s having a holistic perspective, supported by a breadth of capability (rather than a single discipline focus on creative, media, digital, etc) that helps us achieve this.

“We also realised that in order to deliver transformational outcomes for our clients we need to transform ourselves. We removed account service and gave our clients direct access to strategists as their primary contact, with delivery managers looking after workflow. This innovation meant we could begin having strategic conversations right from day one, while our rich understanding of data helps us more deeply embed in our client’s business. The result is we’re more quickly able to realise their potential or discover the real problems for any underperformance.”

Q: Has AFFINITY had any recent client wins?

“The short answer is yes – lots! But they’re all so recent, I can’t announce them quite yet. What I can say though is they’re across multiple sectors, including beauty, finance, automotive, alcohol, real estate and environmental. We’re definitely going into 2022 in a very strong position.”

Q: What is it like being a member of the IMAA?

“We’ve been active members of several industry associations over the years, including the Advertising Council Australia, ADMA, and we’ve had an ongoing relationship with the AANA.

“Joining the IMAA in 2021 was another great business decision. The IMAA is a very dynamic, supportive and progressive organisation that even in its infancy is successfully reflecting the diversity of thinking independent agencies bring to the media landscape. This is something I feel is critical to the healthy growth of our industry.

“Plus, as an independent agency, we see our role as being progressive and advancing the success of the industry wherever possible. Which is why alongside our contribution to the broader professional community, we’re also working on some important initiatives of our own. So, it’s fair to say 2022/23 is shaping up to be AFFINITY’s best year ever, with some significant business growth and some exciting announcements coming very soon.”

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