“BIG 4” Agency image – And, what about the independent agencies?

The Asia Research buyer surveys conducted in Q1 and Q2 (2014) assessed the image of the leading research firms in Singapore and Indonesia. The dominant players in both countries with whom most clients are familiar are Nielsen, TNS, Ipsos and Millward Brown. The perception of the image of each is summarised as follows:

Nielsen has a strong image in both Singapore and Indonesia. They are far ahead of their peer group for being “highly regarded in the research industry” (e.g. demonstrating leadership and promoting high standards). Nielsen is viewed as having high-quality data collection techniques such as interviewing and survey QC, more innovative methods, and higher levels of client servicing. In Indonesia, Nielson’s image is even stronger and ahead of its peer group competitors for having staff with prior client-side experience and the quality of its reports.

TNS has a stronger image in Indonesia than in Singapore. In Indonesia, it is significantly ahead of Ipsos and Millward Brown for being “highly regarded in the industry”, having good senior management and research teams, having an extensive network of offices, and to some extent for innovative research solutions and quality of data collection.

Ipsos does not differentiate itself much from its peer group.It tends to have a slightly stronger image that Millward Brown in both markets, but this could be attributed to more clients using Ipsos than Millward Brown, which means they have a better “chance” of scoring higher for brand image.

Millward Brown has the weakest image out of the “Big 4” agencies, but this is as a result of having a lower penetration in the market compared to others in their peer group. Millward Brown does not have such a wide repertoire of clients as the other companies, and therefore clients tend to be left with a weaker impression. However, among its clients Millward Brown has a stronger image for high- quality reporting (e.g. insight and quality of presentation), particularly in Singapore.

Independent agencies

After the “Big 4” agencies, there is quite a big “step down” in terms of market penetration, and therefore the views of the independent agencies are quite diluted. Acorn, GfK, and Insight Asia have sizable operations in both markets, but appear to have a narrower ordering levitra online repertoire of clients, which means their image in both markets is quite weak.

In Singapore, the fragmentation of the market means the brand image votes are highly scattered, but based on the Asia Research sample, those independent companies with stronger image than average include BDRC Asia, Kadence, Added Value Saffron Hill and ORC International.

In Indonesia, Kadence has grown significantly and has a strong image for being “up-and-coming”, for speed, low price and high-quality client servicing.

Mark Plus is known to most clients in Indonesia but has a relatively low market penetration. However, it does have quite a strong management team image. Primera (recently acquired by GfK) is another agency in Indonesia with a stronger-than-average image, particularly in terms of personal rapport with account managers and for being an “up-and-coming” agency.

In Singapore, areas where clients feel there is least differentiation between agencies and where they have stated “no agency” have qualities including innovation (31%) and report quality (22%). This contrasts quite significantly with Indonesia, where only 10% of clients did not vote for any agency for innovation and reporting quality.


The big agencies have dominated Asian markets for decades and still retain a strong higher-level image for leadership and standards. There is more differentiation among the images of the “Big 4” agencies in Indonesia, but with Singapore being a more mature market, the images of these agencies have come that much closer together, being almost viewed as a single entity of “large multinational agencies”.

The big agencies are still able to hang on to some of the talent that can really make a difference between research suppliers. However, smaller and more nimble agencies will inevitably provide competitive advantages in these markets, causing further redistribution of business across the supply side of the industry.

The results also demonstrate the contrasts between Singapore and Indonesia. The Singapore market has become saturated to such an extent that the brand image of agencies has become diluted to a point where it fails to differentiate many of the agencies. Clients are also harder to impress in Singapore, with far more clients claiming that no agency impresses them for “innovation” and “reporting quality”.