Foundation Certificate Syllabus

A journey through the entire brand communications process in just 30 hours of flexible online learning.

This qualification is divided into seven modules designed to take candidates on a circular learning journey through the entire brand communications process.


The Business of Creativity

Authored by Coral Cranmer, Head of Strategy and Planning, McCann Leeds and Gavin Shore, Executive Creative Director, McCann Leeds

The opening module is intended to remind us about the inspiring creative industry that we all work in - including references to its glorious past, dynamic present and exciting future. The module helps to outline and celebrate the role of creativity in both communications and the wider business community.

It includes:

  • A perspective on Creativity’s history and tradition
  • Creativity and advertising
  • How creativity has evolved over the years
  • The business of creativity
  • The future of creativity.

The Communications Landscape

Authored by Adele Burns, Strategy Director, the7stars

This module highlights the evolution of the communications landscape from the analogue mainstream of the past, to the fragmented, highly digitised and rapidly evolving landscape of today. It looks at how agency models have changed within this landscape, from the increasing polarisation of the industry, with big communications groups at one end and the emergence of differently focused specialists at the other.

It includes:

  • Evolution from traditional full service to a more fragmented and polarised agency landscape (and possibly back again)
  • The arrival and influence of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Emergence of different agencies including: types; ownership models, and an overview of the global communication groups
  • The significance of the Communications industry to both culture and the economy.

Client and Agency Roles

Authored by Tom Darlington, Global Group Strategy Director, PHD

This module has three parts: The first is client focused, including the (changing) role of the marketing director and considering clients’ work and priorities. The second part centres on agency response and interaction, while the third part outlines some of the necessary paperwork and processes.

It includes:

  • Understanding the Marketing Director’s role and significance
  • Working with your client and understanding their needs and priorities
  • Overview of agency functions and roles: Account Handling, Planning, Creative, Creative Services, Comms and Media

Theories, Tools and Techniques

Authored by Emerson Bramwell, Data Partner, Wavemaker and Neil Godber, Joint Head of Strategy, Wunderman Thompson London. 

The key focus of this fourth module is the key theories, techniques and tools at the disposal of today’s marketers and agencies.

It includes:

  • The theories that underpin our business including: systems of thinking; behavioural economics, the role of memory
  • How these theories help brands grow
  • The different ways in which advertising can work
  • Developing strategy, the planning cycle and the role of data
  • Understanding people: insight & getting under the skin of your audience
  • The importance of briefs
  • Strategy toolkit - the key models, tools and techniques in an agency toolbox.

Comms Review

Authored by James Hankins, Strategy Director, Manning Gottlieb OMD

This module demonstrates media’s invaluable role as source, inspiration and enhancement of creativity and the creative process. It is approached from a media neutral standpoint and includes relevant theories, inspiring examples and helpful facts, to illustrate media’s changing profile as well as the role and relevance of different types of media.

It includes:

  • Creativity and media
  • Channel planning considerations
  • Role and inter relationship of Paid, Owned and Earned media channels
  • Media and media buying basics
  • The future of media.

The Creative Development Process

Authored by Debs Gerrard, EMEA Creative Director, LEGO Group

In this module, we focus on the creative development process. We start from a general perspective: How to foster creativity in your everyday environment, through to a thorough step by step guide to the whys and wherefores of the creative communications development process: from receipt of the client brief, onto creation of the internal briefs through to the art of creative feedback.

It includes:

  • Fostering creativity in your working environment
  • The Creative Communications Development process from start to finish
  • Creative briefs - why they exist and what makes a good one
  • The importance of the briefing meeting
  • Judging Creative ideas
  • Giving Creative feedback.

Evaluating Effectiveness

Authored by Tom Roach, Executive Strategy Director

This final module outlines the importance of effectiveness to our industry. It illustrates some of the ways in which the IPA has been at the vanguard of this drive - as the home of the globally renowned Effectiveness Awards and through the development of many landmark works and theories such as those from Les Binet and Peter Field.

It includes:

  • What is effectiveness and why it is important
  • Leading theories of effectiveness including the link between creativity and effectiveness
  • Embedding effectiveness: from objectives to measurement
  • IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Studies. Students are expected to study one of these case studies for the final exam.

Recommended Resources

We have also provided a list of Recommended Resources for each module, ranging from blogs to books, that we encourage students to explore as wider reading on the subject matter.

Final Exam

Students must pass a formal online exam to achieve the Certificate. The exam comprises of essay questions.

Last updated 21 January 2022