LONDON: A majority of brand owners in the UK typically rely on recommendations when choosing marketing agencies, a new report has revealed.

FindGood, the agency search and selection firm, polled 4,300 client-side marketers, and found 34% depended on procurement departments when picking these service providers.

An additional 8% of the featured operators expected to do so for the first time in 2012. The remaining 59% had no plans to follow this route.

More broadly, just 4% of enterprises had turned to a third party such as a search consultant to help them decide upon appropriate marketing shops.

By contrast, 68% of organisations generally relied on recommendations to assist in identifying the right partners, and 28% conducted research from the press and online sources.

A 64% share of the sample expressed an interest in allying with owner-managed agencies, whereas independent networks posted 26%, and international networks logged 10%.

Kimberly Mears, FindGood's managing director, said: "Marketers are still saying very clearly they prefer to work with smaller agencies - in an entrepreneurial sector that's good news indeed."

When it came to budgets for 2012, some 35% of respondents are due to spend more on ads this year, as were 30% for branding. Exactly 50% will maintain expenditure in each of these fields.

Investment levels in digital were also pegged to rise at 41% of companies. Both social and traditional media budgets recorded 40% on this metric, ahead of 38% for direct mail, 37% for design and 33% for sales promotion.

Equally, however, 13% of firms were reducing their social media and sales promotion spending, the highest scores of the activities assessed.

Elsewhere, 58% of businesses believe their corporate income should improve in 2012, although only 23% agreed with this statement for the sector they traded in.

Another 48% of participants expected profits to increase, while 41% anticipated no change in this area. A further 67% predicted the economy would stay flat in 2012.

Data sourced from FindGood; additional content by Warc staff