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.

Harnessing the flexibility of virtual classrooms, without compromising on quality or delivery of learning content.  

In 2022 this 10-month qualification has been modernised and covid-proofed to run remotely via a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face classrooms. 

As coronavirus restrictions lift, we may well introduce non-mandatory opportunities for candidates to meet in real life to help cement their peer group network. 

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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. 

In 2022, the modules have been redesigned to be virtual-first and will be hosted across multiple four-hour (max) virtual classrooms. 


Application Deadline(s): Final booking deadline Friday 1 October.  If you have missed this deadline, please email learning@ipa.co.uk for an extension.  

Reading List Module 1: Released November 2021

Other dates 

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

  • 26 January 2022: Welcome (virtual)
  • 2 March 2022: Mentor Programme Welcome and Training (virtual)  
  • 7 - 14 March 2022: Module 1 (virtual)
  • 16 March 2022: Writing Workshop (virtual)
  • 18 April 2022: "I Believe" research and planning 
  • 20 April 2022: “I Believe” Masterclass 1 
  • 8 June 2022: “I Believe” Masterclass 2 
  • 14 - 16 June 2022: Module 2 (hybrid face-to-face and live streamed)
  • 6 July 2022: “I Believe” Masterclass 3 
  • 21 - 22 September 2022: Module 3 (location TBC) 
  • 24 - 25 November 2022: Presentation Workshop (hybrid) 
  • 30 November 2022: “I Believe” Presentation Examination (hybrid)
  • 1 - 2 December 2022: “I Believe” Panel Interview Examination (hydrid) 
  • Virtual book club dates

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). 

How can I apply?

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

View and submit the application form

Application assignment:
applicants must submit a 500-word essay or a five-minute video answering the question below 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?"

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 application outcome 


  • Member: £3,000 + VAT
  • Non member: £6,000 + VAT
  • MIPA Pathway and Excellence Diploma package: £3,600 + 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.