Agency Ratings 2011 (Singapore)

The 2011 Asia Research Buyer survey assessed client awareness and usage of research agencies.  With over 100 interviews conducted in Singapore in 2011 and 2010, this year’s results provide some indication on general movements in the supply side of the industry within this market.

As highlighted in the lead article, there has been some rationalization in the number of agencies used by clients, dropping from an average of 3.9 in 2010 to 3.5 in 2011.   Usage of multi-national and Asian agencies had both fallen slightly, but with some increase in the use of consultants and boutique agencies.

Reduction in market share is seen across many agencies, although it should be noted that this does not represent share by total project value.  Agencies such as Millward Brown, IPSOS, Acorn, and GfK although with low market penetration across the industries represented in this survey, are some of the largest agencies in Singapore in terms of billings and headcount.  This is on the basis of retaining some of the largest accounts, e.g. in the FMCG sector.

Agencies gaining in 2011 include Kadence, The Leading Edge, and Market Probe.

The survey also tapped the opinion of these research buyers pertaining to the strengths and weaknesses of each agency.  Analysis of clients’ open-ended feedback on the agencies was put into a numeric score of positive and negative comments.  Some clients might mention several perceived strengths and weaknesses and this was put into a score from 0 (no or neutral impression) to 1, 2, or 3 depending on the strength and breadth of endorsement or criticism.

The overall balance of positive and negative comments about the leading multi-national agencies shows the ratings of Nielsen and Millward Brown to be stable from the previous year, with falls for Synovate and TNS.  Interestingly this result reflected the standing of the agencies in the 2010 Year End Staff Satisfaction and Employer Image Survey (see: www.asiaresearch.com.sg/blog/?p=416 ) where ratings for Nielsen and Millward Brown from an employee value generic lasix 100 mg proposition were higher than the other MNC agencies.  This demonstrates the importance of HR in building the ratings of the agencies from the client’s perspective.

Indeed much of the negative comment about some of the big agencies was directed towards their high staff turnover and their replacement by less experienced staff.

Some of the feedback on the Big 4 agencies was as follows:

  1. “Although they are very focused on the clients’ industry, they always try to force a methodology on the client and this is always a very expensive one!”
  2. “The level of analysis has gone down; there are a lot of changes in the agency, and more expensive as compared to other agencies.”
  3. “Strong in qualitative but room for improvement in project management.”
  4. “Strong in terms of branded solutions and strong network.  Their weakness is fieldwork which is outsourced.”
  5. “Terrible in all aspects!”
  6. “Good servicing and good rapport building, but extremely slow in response, and not transparent in their pricing.”
  7. “Generally not responsive to clients, they are one of the big global company that’s why cannot avoid them”
  8. “Very strong in analytics but very inflexible in methodology”
  9. “They are above average – people with inquisitive minds.”
  10. “Very good advertising tracker and a lot of normative database and benchmarking.”
  11. “Strong in the automotive industry, reputable company and they have large offices across the region.”
  12. “They have good resources but staff turnover is too high to be acceptable.”
  13. “Strong international presence, able to leverage off network and do large projects but not good at taking very specific small strategic projects. It could end up with junior staff who may not give the proper advice.”
  14. “Reliable but not exciting.”
  15. “Able to meet date line on reporting, but unable to have prompt reply at times.”
  16. “One of the cheaper ones, fast on turnaround, but sometimes poor in analysis.”
  17. “Senior people sell but do not get involved in the actual project.”

Asia Research is offering a prize of S$250.00 to the first reader who can match up all the comments with the correct Big 4 agency.