Australian agency AFFINITY has won the Best Use of Data Grand Prix for two consecutive years at the WARC Media Awards. CEO Luke Brown shares how the agency uses layers of data to uncover human insights that ultimately translate into hard-working, effective campaigns.

In our game, there’s nothing better than being recognised for creating work that works. At AFFINITY, we’re fortunate enough to have been recognised for our efforts by winning the top prize two years in a row for Best Use of Data in the WARC Media Awards 2016 and 2017.

People are asking how we did it and, to be honest, there’s no straightforward answer. Narellan Pools and Prospan were two different clients with two different business problems that required two different approaches.

Diving into data with Narellan Pools

For Narellan Pools, we pinpointed a consumer-targeting nirvana by identifying the exact tipping point when a customer takes the plunge from consideration to conversion to a sale.

It centred on a specific observation about the weather – not just the temperature – and we built a weather polling app, connected to our real-time buying platform, that delivered the right message to the right people at precisely the right time.

Not only did our solution help the client reverse a seven-year decline in sales, our digital approach increased leads by 11%, sales by 23% and produced an incremental revenue ROI of $54:1. And all on a media budget cut by a third.

Building the world’s first cough predictor

More recently, for our 2017 campaign for the Flordis-owned cough mixture Prospan, we created the world’s first cough predictor.

Starting with qualitative research and analysis of online search patterns, we discovered that huge pharma budgets weren’t our main competition – apathy was the enemy. We identified that healthcare professionals and mothers aren’t often compelled to treat a cough with medicine as they think that, in most instances, the child will recover from a cough over time. This led to our core creative idea of ‘don’t ignore a cough’.

For our programmatic and social buy, instead of simply targeting all mothers, we looked to pioneer the science behind predicting a cough – hyper-targeting only mothers who were primed to take action. To do this, we overlaid first-party data with social, temperature, pollution and Medicare data, building the world’s first cough predictor. Our real-time cough predictions then dictated when media budgets should be turned on… and off.

Our message acknowledged the inclination of mothers to ignore a cough and their aversion to being lectured to, using humorous executions. This approach made use of a small budget, while achieving a 27% increase in sales for a minnow brand, in a category that shrank by 8.5%

Our approach

As you’d expect, more goes into making these campaigns sing than we can properly address here. We’ve got a six-step process that gets us from brief to launch to refinement. But what underpins it is the way we use layers of data to uncover human insights that can translate into effectively distributed and engaging creative. It’s what we call the Science of Creativity – and it underpins everything we do.

Here’s a quick look at a couple of vital elements that inform our approach.

1. Resourcefulness, not resources

When it comes to data, we start by asking what we’ve got access to. Next, we dig around our clients’ organisations to find what we need access to. It takes persistent questioning and desire to get to the heart of the problem, but it’s what helps us uncover gold for our clients.

Whether that’s piecing together data kept in different silos, dealing with data overload (too much data causes data paralysis), or dealing with gatekeepers, one of our key roles is helping clients find the right data and ultimately help them use it appropriately.

This doesn’t instantly mean the building of new systems, APIs or creating a singular customer view. We have a very frugal mindset and, by minimising change for our clients, we get what we need for them.

f we need access to third-party data sources, we start with what’s freely available Iand work up from there. We have a saying that, when working with data, “there’s no need to fish with dynamite”. Accuracy through critical thinking wins the day over big spending. And our results prove you can prosper against the odds with easily obtainable data and a bit of hard work. It’s about resourcefulness, not resources.

2. Five minutes to save your life

Albert Einstein once said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

We believe asking the right questions is critical. We assume nothing. We’re like toddlers, constantly asking ‘why’? Why do people do that? Why is that happening? Why is this different (finding anomalies is what’s helped us solve most of our clients’ problems)? Why does this occur, at this time?

Then we postulate working answers to our questions that flow into the rest of our process. Our goal isn’t to find the mega breakthrough; it’s finding small increments along the path to purchase. Demonstrably moving the needle at several points along a brand’s path to purchase adds up to a big improvement in bottom-line sales and profits.

What’s next?

Our Science of Creativity approach has delivered more than just awards recognition and unexpectedly high ROI for our clients. It has also informed the constant refinements, updates and learnings we apply to our tech and processes. Because no matter how great your latest innovation is, by tomorrow, it’s yesterday’s news.