Big Agency Image

The 2011 Year End Asia Research Survey again assessed the image of the leading agencies in Asia from an employment point of view, and their position to attract talent in the next 12 months.

There have been some changes in the industry this year. “The Big Four” which has been analysed over the last few years now makes up of Nielsen, TNS, Millward Brown, and now Ipsos following their merger with Synovate. However, our analysis of Ipsos has been based on those working for Ipsos“under the Synovate brand” since there were not enough Ipsos employees encountered in the survey.

The survey asked respondents which, of a range of HR and work related attributes, they associate with the various ‘Big 4’ agencies.

While analyzing the results in a competitive context it was only considered fair to examine the image of these employers based on those who have had direct experience of these companies, i.e. among those who currently work for these companies or who have worked for them in the past.



Nielsen – slipping

At the end of 2010, Nielsen was leading the industry.  It was ahead of its peer group competitors on ‘understanding staff needs’, leadership, and offering good career prospects.  In the last year though, perceptions among current and former employees has fallen across nearly all attributes leaving the company in a fairly poor competitive position, particularly in the working environment.  It also ranked behind all its peer group in terms of likely destination as the next employer of choice.

TNS – interesting projects at least

TNS market position remains very similar to the previous year, although still needs to improve its image in order to return to its 2009 brand standing.  With generally average brand performance across the attributes, the area where TNS have stood out in all years of the Asia Research survey has been in its range of “interesting projects”.

Synovate – hope under the new Ipsos brand

Synovate’s HR brand performance has lagged behind their peer group since the start of the Asia Research employer image survey, particularly in areas such as strong leadership, understanding staff needs, providing enough resources, among others.   Perhaps unsurprisingly in light of the merger with Ipsosn fewer viewed Synovate as offering secure employment.  But despite this, there has been some improvement in its brand image from the previous year, and similarto TNS it is seen as having interesting and varied projects, and being a fun place to work.  Most encouragingly, Synovate under the Ipsos brand can expect to attract more researchers than before, putting them on par with their peer group competitors.

Millward Brown – winner of the 2011 employer image

Millward Brown has outshone its competitors from an HR point of view by a considerable margin, and takes the winning spot in this year’s Asia Research Employer Image survey.

From holding an average position at the end of 2010, throughout 2011 the company appears to have implemented initiatives that significantly improve staff perceptions of the organization.  In particular in the strength of senior management and being a fun place to work.  It out performs its competitors in career prospects, security of employment, and innovation, and is the only company that is seen to be fair in its dealings with staff and offer a fair work-life balance.  Its only area of weakness is the variety of its projects, e.g. being more associated with a more focussed type of research such as brand tracking.  While twice as many employees and ex-employees of Millward Brown would consider them again compared to the other companies in this survey, at an overall market level its ability to attract staff in future is about on par with Ipsos and TNS.




With the except of Millward Brown, few feel that these companies are addressing work-life balance issues, nor understand staff needs fully.  Notably, the proportion of researchers who reject working for any of the Big Four agencies has been increasing over the years with two-in-five research professionals preferring to avoid these companies.  This is an ominous trend for the Big Four agencies in a region where local Asian research companies have consistently returned higher staff satisfaction ratings.