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2012 'Better Than Expected' for Top 25 Research Firms

August 9 2013

The world's 25 largest research firms reported a 'better than expected' 2012, thanks in large part to syndicated services and global acquisitions, according to industry authority Jack Honomichl.

During the year, the Global Top 25 had research-only revenues of $18.8 billion, equating to an estimated 58% of all worldwide spending on marketing, advertising and public opinion research services.

In this 17th annual report, Honomichl found that the Top 25's aggregate revenues of $8.8 billion were up 2.6% from the previous year, or 0.5% after adjustment for inflation. However, in 2012, 11 of the Global Top 25 saw revenues decline, or not grow enough to cover the 2.1% inflation rate.

Eight firms - Nielsen, Arbitron, IMS, IRI, NPD, comScore, JD Power and Video Research - are built on syndicated services, and Honomichl says these companies receive much of their revenue from clients under long-term contracts. Therefore when the economy sags, they tend to hold firm while custom, ad hoc survey firms take the hit from reduced client spending. During the year, these eight firms saw revenues grow by 3.5%, while the other 17 firms' revenue grew by 1.9%, just below the inflation rate.

Thirteen of the Top 25 were involved in a total of 31 acquisitions (and one divestiture), compared with 24 acquisitions in 2011. According to Honomichl, one of the driving forces behind all the buys has been research firms' desire to cater to key clients' growing information demands in other geographies. Five firms have subsidiaries or offices in 70 or more countries, and Nielsen leads that group with 100. Further internationalism comes from, for instance, US firms subcontracting data collection and processing to countries with low labor costs like India and the Philippines.

Newcomers to the Top 25 list include Nikkei Research, which saw its revenue soar largely because of a huge contract from the Japanese government; and Symphony Health Solutions which was formed from the integration of several research firms.

During the year, the Global Top 25 firms had 110,870 full-time employees in 2012, up 0.6% from 2011, and on average, earned $170k in revenue per full-time employee, compared with $169k in 2011, $167k in 2010 and $162k in 2009.

The top ten companies are:

Rank 2012 (2011) Company Parent Country Revenue ($m) Growth (%)
1 (1) Nielsen US 5,429.0 4.0
2 (2) Kantar UK 3,338.6 0.8
3 (3) Ipsos France 2,301.1 -1.0
4 (4) GfK Germany 1,947.8 3.1
5 (6) IMS Health US 775.0 NC
6 (5) Information Resources Inc. US 763.8 2.4
7 (8) INTAGE Japan 500.3 8.7
8 (7) Westat US 495.9 -2.2
9 (9) Arbitron US 449.9 1.7
10 (10) The NPD Group US 272.0 2.5

Honomichl's full Global Top 25 listings can be found at: www.marketingpower.com .

All articles 2006-21 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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