NEW YORK: Unilever and Procter & Gamble are the brand owners making the most effective of shopper marketing.

The Hub Magazine, the industry title, allied with Hoyt & Company, the consultancy, to survey 461 executives including representatives from General Mills, Kellogg's, MillerCoors, Nokia and Wrigley.

Respondents from the agency world were drawn from a wide range of disciplines and specialisms, and included Ogilvy Action, TBWA/ChiatDay, TNS, Weber Shandwick and Young & Rubicam.

The poll covered the relationships of 84 advertisers with 123 agencies, and aimed to establish which firms were perceived as having particularly strong credentials in this area.

"Performance has risen significantly for both agencies and brand marketers in just the past 12 months – as though all of the thinking and testing of the past three-to-four years has finally gelled," said Chris Hoyt, president of Hoyt & Co.

Unilever was seen as the "best of the best" by the agency panel, leapfrogging Procter & Gamble, its major rival, which had occupied this position for each of the last two years.

Among its various strengths, Unilever was credited for the quality of its research, its collaborative and integrated strategy – both internally and externally – as well as for setting clear budgetary guidelines.

ConAgra retained third spot behind P&G, while Kimberly-Clark climbed from eighth to fourth when compared with the rankings published last year.

"This is a result of studied research, careful planning and taking one's time to get it right out of the blocks," Hoyt said of Kimberly-Clark.

Nestlé completed the top five, having entered the list for the first time in 2010 thanks to a year-long programme which aimed to dramatically enhance its capabilities in a short space of time.

The Campbell Soup Company, Clorox, PepsiCo, Kraft and Coca-Cola were the other corporations that featured in the top ten.

According to the feedback from agencies, most clients had enhanced their shopper marketing operations in the last year, such as by offering improved coordination and generating better consumer insights.

However, it was also suggested that manufacturers needed to further develop their approach to budget setting and establish more streamlined approval processes.

A majority of agencies also reported that "openness" and a "willingness to share" were the advertiser characteristics which led to greater motivation and thus drove more efficient communications.

Mars Advertising was regarded as being the premier shopper marketing agency by brand owners, a title it claimed in the previous two such studies produced by The Hub Magazine.

RPM Connect followed in second with TracyLocke in third, while Marketing Drive jumped from twelfth place to fourth year-on-year.

The Ryan Partnership made up the top five, with Malone Advertising, Integrated Marketing, Saatchi & Saatchi X, WPP Shopper and TPM all in the top ten.

Strong research capabilities and an ability to prove return on investment, based on establishing and tracking viable metrics, were the qualities that helped agencies stand out.

Having a "growth culture" was also deemed as being important by clients, as reflected in an agency's understanding of retail, digital media and its ability to provide guidance and training as necessary.

Data sourced from The Hub Magazine; additional content by Warc staff