Excellence Diploma in Brands

The gold standard for critical thinking and advertising innovation.

Matching 20 brand leaders of tomorrow with world-class thinkers and cutting-edge makers via a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face classrooms: reading, debate, imaginative coursework, a mentoring programme and three fully immersive modules: Level Set, Skill Set and Mind Set.

Applications are now open 

This course is harnessing the flexibility of virtual classrooms, without compromising on quality or delivery of learning content. This 10-month qualification has been modernised and covid-proofed to run remotely via a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face classrooms. We may well introduce non-mandatory opportunities for candidates to meet in real life to help cement their peer group network. 

Download the Excellence Diploma in Brands brochure


What is the Excellence Diploma in Brands?

Dubbed the “MBA of Brands” by former delegates, this qualification, the 2006 brainchild of Nick Kendall and Stephen Woodford was re-imagined in 2019 by new Qualification Chairs Sera Holland (Miller) and Amelia Torode, co-founders of The Fawnbrake Collective. 

Candidates are challenged with imaginative coursework; including writing both short and long-form assignments, participating in high-intensity sprint pitches and delivering public presentations 

Candidates are also matched with a mentor from the industry who they can use as a sounding board for their ideas and assessments throughout the qualification. 

Combining classic brand and advertising thinking with leading-edge innovation and technology, the Excellence Diploma in Brands has been designed to be intensive and inspiring, but above all practical. The Excellence Diploma in Brands shapes careers as candidates move up to the next level of leadership. But don't take our word for it; read testimonials from Diploma graduates.

Take a look at the full syllabus and adland star-studded faculty list.

Who is it for?

Traditionally, diploma alumni have come from strategy, planningaccount management and client marketing backgrounds – but the qualification is open to all disciplines.

We do not have any education requirements for our applicants. However, we would recommend that you have at least six years of advertising/marketing industry experience.

That being said, individuals with less experience who can demonstrate themselves as a high-flyer in their application should not be put off applying. 

How is it delivered? 

The Excellence Diploma in Brands is an intensive 10-month qualification consisting of three ‘flipped classroom’ modules, writing and presentation boot campsa mentoring programme, independent reading and the independent “I Believe” project. 

Testimonies from 2022:

Having spent a year with some of the industry's brightest and most provocative thinkers, I'm delighted to have been given the chair's prize for this year's IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands. As each day, the culture war around the basic human rights of trans people gets more and more polarised, it's more important than ever that we embrace non-binary thinking.

Isabelle Bale, Creative Innovation Director, M&C Saatchi

“Brands keeping their promises was the inspiration for my IPA I Believe. And the IPA lived up to theirs. The IPA Excellence Diploma in Brand was indeed 10 intensive months of study, written submissions, TED-style talks and Vivas. The course deserves its reputation as “the MBA of brands”. It was also brilliant fun and no better way of meeting some of the industry’s great minds.”

Lisa Gulley, Planning Director, Red Brick Road

How can I apply?

To apply, please submit the application form, attaching your application assignment.

Application assignment

Applicants must submit a 500-word essay or a five-minute video answering the question alongside the application form: "If the only constant is change, and the only certainty is that the pace of change is going to increase - what do you think brands and agencies can do in order to innovate and flex to better suit our new business reality?"

Go to application form


What do I need to do before I apply?

Before you apply, ensure that you appreciate the time commitment that you are making and are available on all published qualification dates, find an internal sponsor who supports the time commitment you are making (CEO/MD) and have budget approval for the fee.

Please note that your internal sponsor and budget approver will also receive a copy of your application and notification of the application outcome.

All dates

You need to ensure you are available on all qualification dates before applying. Please see the qualification policies for details on attendance expectations.

Reading List Module 1


  • Kick-off Session - 20 June 2024
  • Mentor Programme Welcome and Training - 10 September 2024

Module 1

  • Brands 1 and 2 - 16, 17 September 2024
  • Business - 18 September 2024
  • Brains and Behaviour - 19 September 2024
  • Writing Bootcamp - 24, 25 September 2024
  • Chair's Masterclass - 11 November 2024

Module 2 

  • Constraints & Creativity - 19 November 2024
  • Craft & Communications - 20 November 2024
  • Group Presentations - 22 November 2024

Module 3 

  • Past Prize Winners' Masterclass - 3 December 2024
  • Global Perspectives - 28 January 2025
  • Innovation/ Futures - 29 January 2025
  • Presentation Bootcamp - 29, 30 April 2025
  • Presentation - 15 May 2025

Throughout the qualification, there are regularly scheduled book clubs. These online sessions, facilitated by the Qualification Chairs, allow candidates to discuss the reading list and better cement their peer group network. 

In addition to the dates listed above, candidates will need to liaise with their assigned mentor to organise regular sessions at the direction of the IPA and as per the mentoring programme timetable. Candidates are also expected to submit written assignments as per the submission deadline(s). 


  • Member: £3,750 + VAT
  • Non member: £7,500 + VAT
  • Any questions? Get in touch at learning@ipa.co.uk.
Read testimonials from past graduates

Please note: if you are taking one of our courses or qualifications through your employer or educational establishment, we may need to share your information - including your course or qualification results - with them. Virtual classrooms and Book Clubs will be recorded. For further details about how we treat your personal data, please see our privacy policy.