How indie agency Awaken shot up the AFR Fast 100

AFR Fast 100

• The agency has recorded 100% client growth for four consecutive years

Independent full-service media agency Awaken has been named on the Australian Financial Review’s Fast 100, ranking at number 27 on the list. The AFR Fast 100 recognises the fastest-growing companies that started trading before July 1, 2016.

Coming in at number 27 this year follows the company being no.72 on the 2021 AFR Fast Starters list last year, and reflects a huge jump in the rankings for the indie.

Mediaweek spoke to Awaken founder and CEO, Chris Parker about how his agency has managed to perform so well and the value of being on The AFR Fast 100.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of growth,” said Parker. ” A lot of our clients have grown as well. We lost some tourism clients like Macau Government Tourism and some other groups who had to stop working with us during lockdowns. But other groups like alcohol sales, electronics and others had booming sales for those periods and we’ve grown with them.”

The agency has recorded 100% client growth for four consecutive years, with a number of new clients coming on board in 2021, including Coates, Pier One – Marriot Hotel Group, McCarolls, and Husqvana, and growth from existing clients Energizer, Kraken Rum, Jose Cuervo, and Panasonic.

While Parker said that sometimes it was as simple as being invited to a few pitches that ended up going their way, he also credited the growth to some innovative moves, including a plan that has allowed clients to save money across a campaign.

“We launched a creative division of Awaken a few years ago. We amortize some of the creative costs across our client’s media campaigns to make creative more accessible and affordable. We also include our creative and media strategists in all campaign planning. It was a significant change, but in the past 12 months, we have won 23 award statues for our creative from international awards. So we have found a model that works for our clients and us.”

While he knew that Awaken had made the list about two weeks ago, Parker admitted that he was up at 5:30am on Monday morning waiting for the official rankings to be released. When asked why this was so important to him, Parker said that this list was different from a lot of the other awards and accolades in agency land.

“A lot of the creative awards and campaign awards are really about the work that we do and the work that we do with our clients and success for our clients. This is about the success of our business and for us running a good business and growing a great business and the team effort that we have put into building Awaken to what it is today. This is more a reflection of the success of our growth, our client’s trust in us, and what we have been able to achieve and for me, this has been one that I’ve wanted for a very long time.”

When asked about what commercial value that being on an AFR list brings, Parker said that it is something that is respected by procurement teams, CFOs, CEOs, and managing directors.

“It had a lot of weight into not just us saying that we’re a great agency, but also that we’re able to run a fairly strong business and maintain growth momentum. We are a seven-year-old business, and we’ve maintained our growth rates over 100% for four years. With our staffing clients and momentum, it’s just giving us bigger visibility to be a stronger player, and also for us to compete with some of the other larger groups and agencies out there.”


Awaken was one of the first 50 members to join the IMAA, and he created their support in that time for helping Awaken to continue to grow.

“The IMAA has helped to stabilise rates across the industry, get early insights and access for indies that all the big groups get that we weren’t getting. We’ve become quite a good set of little indies. We are getting a lot more focus from all those groups, which has been amazing.”

See the AFR Fast 100 list here.

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