Employment Perceptions of Big Agencies in Asia (2010 Year End)

The 2010 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.

This year, we chose to focus on just four of the big agencies – Nielsen, TNS, Synovate, and Millward Brown.  Although some argued that Ipsos and GfK should be included in the survey (as they were the year before) there are simply not enough ‘votes’ on these companies in the last survey to make any analysis meaningful and were therefore taken out from this year’s ratings.

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 previously worked for them in the past.

Nielsen – deserving of the Superbrand award!

Nielsen has finished 2010 as the strongest brand from an HR point-of-view.  It is ahead of its peer group competitors on ‘understanding staff needs’, leadership, and offering good career prospects.  Along with Millward Brown it is also seen as offering more competitive remuneration compared to TNS and Synovate.  What is notable is how far the organization has come in the last year.  It has significantly improved its employment image across many attributes.  Apart from the attributes just mentioned, it rated higher this year for being ‘innovative and progressive’, ‘having interesting and varied projects’, ‘offering a fair work-life balance’, security of employment, and training.

The winning of the 2010 Asia Research Employer Image Survey, Nielsen are deserving of their Business Superbrands award.

TNS – something has gone pear-shaped!

In contrast, TNS who was seen in last year’s survey as having the strongest potential of the 4 brands has had a very bad year. Perception of TNS has fallen in almost all areas, most significantly in offering competitive remuneration, training, understanding staff needs, and being a ‘fun place to work’.  However, it is still perceived to have an interesting range of projects and being innovative and progressive although votes on these attributes have still fallen.

Clearly this is a disappointing result for TNS, especially given its fairly strong position at the end of 2009.  Despite this, TNS is as likely to be in the consideration set for future employment as Nielsen and Millward Brown, although are less likely to attract back to the company former employees.

Synovate – still a lot of work to do!

Similar to the end of 2009, Synovate returned the worst result out of the Big 4 agencies, particularly on the more important attributes!  Perceptions of the company have declined on most attributes, most significantly for being a ‘fun place to work’ – the only area where they performed better previously than the competition.

Most alarming is that only 15% of all agency side researchers would put them in their top two for employment compared to over 30% for each of the other three Big agencies.

Millward Brown – it’s fun there it seems!

Millward Brown as had another respectable year from an HR point of view, although votes have declined for ‘understanding staff needs’ and for training.  Similar to the 2009 Year End survey, Millward Brown is less associated for having ‘interesting and varied projects’ since they tend to focus on FMCG categories without the breadth of the other Big agencies.  However, there are significant improvements in perceptions over pay with Millward Brown ranking close to Nielsen on competitive remuneration.

The one area where Millward Brown does stand out is the agency as ‘a fun place to work’.  Fun work and good pay can’t be bad!


While Nielsen and to a degree Millward Brown have some cause for celebration, a third (33%) of agency-side researchers would not consider any of these companies for future employment.  This has increased from only 23% rejecting them a year before.

While greater choice of employment and better economic conditions might be something to do with this, it does show that the prospects for the Big 4 agencies to increase their talent pool are under pressure.  Those most likely to reject the Big 4 include those working for local Asian agencies and those at Director or MD level.

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