Employer Image of the ‘Big 4’ Agencies


Part of the purpose of the annual Asia Research staff satisfaction survey is to assess the image of the ‘Big 4’ agencies in Asia: Nielsen, TNS, Millward Brown, and Ipsos.

Based on the surveys of 286 research professionals conducted at the end of 2016, of whom 232 were either currently or formerly employees of one of the Big 4 agencies, we undertook analysis of how people view the Big 4 agencies from the standpoint of being an employee.

At an overall level, the strongest association with these companies is that they have ‘interesting and varied projects’, particularly so for TNS and less so for Millward Brown. Over the years, TNS has consistently been viewed as the company that can provide this job variety. All four companies are also quite strongly associated with being ‘innovative and progressive’, but when we examine the views of those who have actually worked for these companies, Millward Brown is ahead of its peer group in this area.

Each of the companies is associated with providing ‘good training’, but in terms of ‘career prospects’ there is a very wide divergence of opinion, with Nielsen being rated very well and Ipsos poorly.

Generally, Nielsen gets better ratings on the other attributes, and Ipsos lags behind its competitors on most attributes.

But for all these companies, the lowest associations are with being ‘fair in dealings with staff’, ‘understanding staff needs’, and being ‘committed to a fair work–life balance’, although Nielsen is seen as doing more than the other companies in ‘providing enough resources’.

In summary, the Big 4 agencies can provide employees with a good start to their careers by exposing researchers to a wide range of projects, backed up with good training and an innovative and progressive company culture. But this does come at a price, which can mean long hours and putting the company’s financial interests over those of its staff.

Opinion varies considerably within each company about career prospects, remuneration, and the ratings of senior management. But despite this, nearly 80% of researchers in the industry would still consider working for one of the Big 4 agencies in the future, with little difference in the propensity to choose between these companies. This indicates that potential employees would judge the individual offices and line managers within these companies on their merits, rather than on the overall image of the company. In this respect, agencies should thoroughly read our Special Report, ‘What employees in market research seek from their line managers’ (next page). ■