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The 2017 AMA Gold Global Top 25 Market Research Companies

The 2017 AMA Gold Global Top 25 Market Research Companies

Michael Brereton and Diane Bowers

AMA gold global

During the past three years the American Marketing Association’s approach to chronicling the trends within the marketing research industry has similarly evolved to reflect this transformation. Using the AMA Top 25 Report as a foundation we are now taking the next step in this process by introducing you to several related thought pieces throughout the next year.

More specifically, the AMA (formerly Honomichl) Top 50 and Top 25 Reports have long been the industry standards for annually documenting patterns in the global business of marketing research, and the major players driving its growth. This will continue. But just as the market is transforming, so too are these reports. We continue to track and publish annual changes in the traditional survey research market, but beginning last year we began to also explore the evolving marketing intelligence space in which we reside, and the expanding field of players in the emerging sub-segments defining this morphing space.


The concern for a greater understanding of research in transformation is a sentiment receiving support from all corners of our industry. For example, Lenny Murphy, GreenBook executive editor suggests that the need for defining and documenting this transformation can be a rallying point to support the argument that the research industry continues to be a foundational discipline within the world of marketing. In a related article he wrote, “We need a consistent definition of the industry and a consistent means of evaluating the companies in it that not only is comprehensive but also can support the argument that the research industry is the core of all marketing insights-related categories, and the companies that participate in it deserve serious attention as growth opportunities.

Relatively little data to explore this expanding space exists today, so in coordination with the Insights Association and Michigan State University, AMA continues to take a comprehensive look at the evolution of this space within which we contribute and compete.

The Broad School of Business at Michigan State University is one of several U.S. universities committed to developing the next generation of marketing leadership through internship-based Master of Marketing Research Programs. In 2015 Michigan State University created the Research Transformed Collaborative as an academic and industry partnership to begin vetting and quantifying related points of view.

AMA now begins to incorporate these findings, plus the perspectives of other industry sources, into the gradually expanding depiction of the market. Look for several articles in the following months examining the industry transformation.

-Michael Brereton

Over the past three years, we have introduced an important objective in our presentation of the AMA Gold Top 50 and Global Top 25 Reports: analysis and presentation of an objective view of the changes our industry is experiencing.

CASRO, now the Insights Association, has worked with key associations in the industry, especially our partners the AMA, Michigan State University and the Global Research Business Network (GRBN), but also ESOMAR, Greenbook and thought leaders such as Simon Chadwick, board chair of the Insights Association and managing partner of Cambiar.

This research and assessment of the sub-segments that comprise and define the industry’s transformation and expansion has been an important initiative of Michigan State University’s Research Transformed Collaborative under the leadership of Michael Brereton. The MSU team will provide a series of articles that feature specific transformative developments in the industry. It is important to emphasize that many of these sub-segments are already being adopted by the 25 companies listed in the report, which lead the way by virtue of their size and by their foresight in industry and business innovation and transformation.

The expansion and transformation of the marketing research industry continued in 2016, particularly among the companies included in this year’s AMA Gold Global Top 25 Report. Total 2016 revenue for this year’s top 25 is $22.549 billion versus $21.566 billion in 2015, a growth rate of 4.6% (3.3% when adjusted for inflation).

The 2016 growth rate for the 25 research companies included in this year’s report represents significant change from the flat growth rate recorded in last year’s report. There are two major factors that contributed to this turnaround: changes in the composition of this year’s global top 25 list and currency exchange rate fluctuations in 2016 and 2015. 

The portion of global revenue generated outside the home countries of these companies is about 70% of total revenue. In addition, the top 25 companies have, on average, an office or a subsidiary in 27 countries. These numbers include more outreach to and establishment of offices in emerging research markets in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America and Central America.

Global Growth Rate

Currency Exchange Rate Fluctuations

The currency exchange rate fluctuation between 2015 and 2016 had a mixed effect on the growth rate in 2016. The top 25 companies submit their annual revenue in their home country’s currency. These figures are converted to U.S. dollars based on the average annual currency exchange rates provided by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. In 2016, the currency exchange rate against the U.S. dollar had an especially negative impact on the British pound and the euro. However, the Japanese yen increased its value against the U.S. dollar.

Year-Over-Year Increases and Decreases in Revenue

In this year’s top 25 report, there was an increase in the number of companies that had double-digit increases in their revenue (eight companies in 2016 versus four companies in 2015) and a decrease in the number of companies that reported flat revenue or decreased revenue (eight companies in 2016 versus twelve companies in 2015).

Composition of the Global Top 25

Countries and Currencies

There are five countries and four currencies represented in this year’s report.

The British pound is the currency for seven of the top 25 companies and more than 50% of the total 2016 global revenue. The U.K. contingent includes four of the top 10 companies, beginning with Nos. 1 and 2 on the list—Nielsen and Kantar—and Nos. 8 and 10, dunnhumby and Wood MacKenzie. The other British companies are Nos. 18, Mintel; 21, YouGov; and 25, Cello Health.

The U.S. dollar is the currency for the 11 U.S. companies, representing 27.8% of the total 2016 global revenue. Three U.S. companies are included in the top 10: No. 3, QuintilesIMS; No. 6, IRI (Information Resources, Inc.); and No. 7, Westat. The other U.S. companies are: No. 11, The NPD Group; No. 13, ICF; No. 15, DRG (Decision Resources Group); No. 17, MaritzCX; No. 19, Abt Associates; No. 20, Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW); No. 22, ORC International; and No. 23, NRC Health.

More than 17% of the total 2016 global revenue was generated in euros, 10% of which was earned by French companies, including No. 4, Ipsos; No. 16, BVA; and No. 24, Médiamétrie. Germany’s 7.4% of the global revenue is represented by one company, GfK, No. 5 on the list.

More than 4% of the 2016 global revenue is represented in Japanese yen and includes contributions from three top 25 companies, No. 9, INTAGE Holdings; No. 12, Macromill; and No. 14, Video Research.

How Global?

Many of the top 25 focus their business within their home country. This is true even for some of the largest companies on the list. Nearly two-thirds of the top 25 companies (including four out of the top 10) derive more than 60% of their annual revenue from their home country. Even so, the revenue generated by the top 25 outside their home countries is more than twice the revenue they generate in their home countries and represents almost 70% of the total global revenue.

New Additions to this Year’s Global Top 25

There are three new companies on this year’s list.

  • At No. 16 with $171.6 million in global annual revenue is BVA. Headquartered in Balma, France, with offices in eight other countries, BVA specializes in customer experience research in Europe, and in packaging and shopper research globally.
  • At No. 18 with global revenue of $150 million, Mintel is a global marketing intelligence company headquartered in London. Mintel covers 33,000 product launches per month and tracks consumer spending across 34 countries.
  • At No. 23 with $109.4 million in global revenue is U.S.-based, NRC Health, which offers performance measurement and improvement services to hospitals, health care systems, physicians, health plans and other health care organizations.

Absent from this Year’s List

This year’s list does not include comScore, which could not participate because its 2016 financial statements were not publicly available. Nor does the report include Rentrak, which merged with comScore in February 2016. Finally, the list does not include J.D. Power, which was acquired by XIO Group in 2016 and chose not to disclose financial information. These companies represent more than $750 million in annual revenue. 

Moving Up and Down

  • ICF, which provides research and technical training to government and multinational organizations, moved up two spaces from No. 15 to No. 13 on the list.
  • Video Research, a media and marketing research firm serving the Japanese media, TV and radio market, moved from No. 16 to No. 14.
  • Decision Resources Group (DRG), a health care research and consulting company, moved from No. 17 to No. 15.
  • Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW), a research, consulting and global analytics company, moved from No. 22 to No. 20.
  • The NPD Group, a data-driven global information and business solutions company, moved from No. 12 to No. 11.
  • Macromill, a global online and consumer insights and analytics company, moved from No. 13 to No. 12.
  • MaritzCX, a customer experience software and research company, moved from No. 18 to No. 17.
  • YouGov, providing proprietary data products and syndicated research, moved from No. 20 to No. 21.
  • ORC International, a global business intelligence company, moved from No. 21 to No. 22.

Maintaining Their Positions

  • At No. 19, Abt Associates (formerly Abt SRBI), which specializes in health care, social and international research.
  • At No. 24, Médiamétrie, a television and media research and audience measurement company.
  • At No. 25, Cello Health, a health care research and consumer strategic marketing company.

The Top 10

The top 10 companies account for $19.948 billion (88.5%) of the total 2016 revenue of the top 25. These 10 companies generated $15.068 billion (95.8%) of the revenue earned by the 25 companies outside their home countries and $4.880 billion (71.6%) of the total revenue earned within in their home countries. These 10 companies have 143,477 employees total, constituting 91.5% of all employees of the top 25 companies.

There have been some adjustments to the top 10 list with the absence of comScore, which held the No. 10 spot on last year’s list.

  • No. 10, dunnhumby, a London-based retail, manufacturer and grocery customer science measurement company, moved from No. 7 on last year’s list.
  • No. 8, Wood MacKenzie, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based research and commercial intelligence firm specializing in energy, metals and mining industries, moved up from No. 11 on last year’s report.
  • No. 7, Westat, a U.S.-based company that provides statistical, survey and evaluation studies of programs and policies for government and international organizations, moved up from No. 8 on last year’s list.

The remaining companies in the top 10 have maintained their position this year.

  • No. 9, INTAGE Holdings, is a Tokyo-based company specializing in standardized syndicated data and customized research services.
  • No. 6, IRI, headquartered in Chicago, delivers market, consumer and media exposure information; prescriptive analytics; and technology platforms through offices in 15 other countries.   
  • No. 5, GfK, headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany, is a consumer experience company that integrates online and offline data for business solutions and opportunities.
  • No. 4, Ipsos, headquartered in Paris, has five research specializations operating in 88 countries: Ipsos Marketing, Ipsos Connect, Ipsos Loyalty, Ipsos Public Affairs and Ipsos Observer.
  • No. 3, QuintilesIMS, headquartered in the U.S., is an integrated information and technology-enabled health care service provider. The new company formed via the 2016 merger of health care data and tech solutions company, IMS Health, with Quintiles, a contract research organization for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries.
  • No. 2, Kantar, the London-based data investment management division of WPP plc, includes 12 specialist operating brands that provide research, data, analytic, strategic and consultative services.
  • No. 1, Nielsen, headquartered in London, is a global media and consumer measurement and data company with offices in more than 100 countries. Nielsen’s 2016 revenue of $6.309 billion represents 28% of the total global revenue of the top 25. Nielsen’s $6.111 billion generated outside the U.K. represents 38.8% of the total revenue generated outside the home countries of the top 25.

Portfolio of Services

The top 25 continue to be dominated by companies that provide syndicated, tracking and measurement services. Thirteen companies on the list specialize in measurement and tracking services: Nielsen, QuintilesIMS, IRI, Wood MacKenzie, INTAGE, dunnhumby, The NPD Group, Video Research, Decision Resources Group, Mintel, YouGov, NRC Health and Mediametrie. These 13 companies represent 58.4% of the total 2016 revenue for the top 25. Most of the other top 25 companies also include measurement and tracking in their portfolio of services.

The profiles of the top 25 companies confirm that their services are expanding and changing. Most companies are vested in online research, panel research, social media measurement, data analytics and customer experience. The Gold Global Top 25 companies are increasing their focus on and investment in social media, predictive analytics, data visualization and enterprise feedback management, among other emerging sub disciplines. The transformation of the research industry is well underway.

– Diane Bowers


With the help of the Global Research Business Network (GRBN), which includes the national research associations in more than 40 countries around the world, invitations are sent out to marketing research firms with estimated revenue greater than $25 million. We ask for revenue information for the prior calendar year and for the year preceding that to assess the growth rate. Other company data are also requested, including a description of the company’s management, services, specializations, etc. The rate of growth from year to year has been adjusted to account for revenue gains or losses from acquisitions or divestitures. Verification of revenue is required of each private firm for ranking by a third party—generally an outside accounting firm. For further information, contact Diane Bowers at

The Top 25 Company Profiles 

 1. Nielsen

​CEO:   Dwight M. Barns, B.S., Miami University

Founded:1923Research-Only Employees:43,000
Home Country:
2016 Home Country Revenue:
2016 Global Revenue:
Percent Change from 2015:
2016 Revenue From Outside Home Country:
Percent Global Revenue From Outside Home Country:

Michael Brereton currently is a board member of CASRO and an adjunct professor at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad Graduate School of Management. In 2014, Brereton retired from the role of president and CEO of Maritz Research, a position that he served in since 2003. Brereton’s industry leadership roles have included CASRO board chair, founding chair for the CASRO Institute for Research Quality, advisory board chair for Michigan State University’s master of science in marketing research program, and advisory board member for Southern Illinois University’s master of marketing research program.

Diane Bowers is president of CASRO, the trade association of market, social and opinion research organizations that represents and advocates for the U.S. research industry nationally and globally. Bowers currently is on the board of directors of The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut; a past president of the Market Research Council and the Research Industry Coalition; and a long-time member of AAPOR, the AMA and ESOMAR. She is a founder and CASRO leader of the Americas Research Industry Alliance and the Global Research Business Network, which represents 38 national research associations around the world.