Excellence Diploma in Brands: Testimonials

The class of 2020 share their experiences.

The class of 2020 share their experiences of the IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands. Dubbed the ”MBA of Brands”, the Diploma matches 20 brand leaders of tomorrow with world-class thinkers and cutting-edge makers via virtual classrooms, reading, debate, imaginative coursework and a mentoring programme.

IPA candidates celebrate their success on Zoom
IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands, online graduation ceremony 14 May 2020


Andy Cridland, Director Global Brand Strategy, Planning & Innovation, BlackRock

“As someone that has been working in the marketing and advertising for 20 years both client and agency side, I was looking for a course that would challenge me, make me question things, push me to unlearn, re-learn, and connect me with some great people. The IPA Excellence Diploma delivered on all that and more.

Through on-going discussion and debate with fellow course delegates, and direct interaction with some of the industry’s most well-respected thinkers, the course encouraged me to go beyond the academic consumption of industry text and case-studies.

It encouraged a mindset that pushed me to challenge and discover what I truly believe to be essential to the effectiveness of brand strategy and communications in the 21st century.”

Kiron Mair, Senior Strategist, Cheil UK 

“Embarking on the IPA Excellence Diploma has honestly been the best decision I’ve ever made in my career. Make no mistake - the 10 months were a challenge, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. But I came through with a new level of confidence in myself and a different way of looking at the world for which I’m so grateful.

Being pushed to develop my own unique strategic belief about brands was amazing; it has given me a new, robust foundation for my everyday work – allowing me to have the big conversations with senior figureheads in the industry and impart my own valuable wisdom.

And what’s more, The IPA Excellence Diploma introduced me to a network of brilliant friends – "the Braintrust" – that were an invaluable source of mutual support throughout and we are as connected today as we were in the thick of it. If you’re reading this and you’re considering the Diploma, do yourself a favour: stop reading and apply right now.” 

Lisa Thompson, Planning Director at Wavemaker North

“In 2019 I wanted to do something that helped me supercharge my career and challenge me - it felt like the perfect moment to apply for the newly redesigned IPA Excellence Diploma. The course was a wonderfully interesting, eye-opening and ultimately very challenging.  

It gave me an incredibly strong grounding in brand, aided my understanding of business, which helps me engage significantly in client problems, and helped me understand what makes organisations successful from a structural and cultural point of view. 

The Diploma helped me realise what makes me tick. Alongside the content, the mentoring available helped boost my confidence and allowed me to realise that as an individual I could have influence. This combination of content and mentoring resulted in my final assignment on social mobility within advertising winning the John Bartle Prize for Best I Believe. This achievement has set me on a much bigger path in tackling social mobility within advertising. 

Overall, the IPA Excellence Diploma had a profound effect on my career, as well as building my knowledge - it helped me find my voice. I cannot recommend the course highly enough. It will change your whole approach and outlook.” 

Ben Levy, Strategic Planning Lead, Wavemaker  

Picture of Ben Levy

“One of the very first lessons I learnt on the IPA Excellence Diploma is that the answer to almost any question in our industry can be answered with 'It depends…'. Except, that is, for the question you may be currently considering – ‘Should I apply to the IPA Excellence Diploma' – where the answer is a resounding YES.

Be prepared to work hard, laugh, cry, make friends, learn something every day, form strong opinions and challenge pre-existing beliefs. But come the end of the course, everyone wins.

Along the way you will develop skills that help you grow personally. At the same time the theoretical, inspirational, and occupational course learning will be of wider benefit to those you work with and those you work for. Now and for years to come.” 

Rachel D’Cunha, Strategy Partner, Wavemaker UK 

“Completing the IPA Excellence Diploma was a privilege, and the experience has had an enduring influence on how I think and work. I’d had over 10 happy and fulfilling years’ experience within media agencies, and I was seeking to broaden my horizons beyond what was familiar to me.  

I loved the course content and the fact the assignments covered a broad spectrum; not just long form writing abilities, but also core skills at the heart of our everyday work; critical thinking, a questioning mindset, persuasive argument, effective pitching, leadership, and bringing the best out of others, as well as yourself, under pressure.  

The IPA Excellence Diploma exposes you to a dream wish-list of brilliant thinkers, writers, speakers and do-ers from the advertising industry, and this really helped me expand my thinking.  

Most of all the course gives you the impetus to really learn and uncover what your own beliefs and perspectives are, and helps you find your voice to express them.” 

Gemma Swinglehurst, Government Industry Manager at Google UK 

“If you are not an agency planner and yet have always wanted to have an opportunity to learn more about communications strategy and behavioural economics, the IPA Excellence Diploma is a great way to do so.

The speakers were a wish list of advertising industry leaders, and I was surrounded by a cohort that both inspired and challenged me to develop my strategic thinking. The Diploma is a serious time commitment, but you will be able to read and discuss everything from the seminal to the cutting edge that you have probably long bookmarked.

Whilst not a planner myself, the course has given me the context to lean in to any planning conversation.” 

Josh Taylor-Dadds, Strategy Director, VMLY&R London  

“Nobody’s above imposter syndrome. At some point it gets us all. Having worked client-side and moving into a senior strategy role in an agency, I definitely felt it. I think that’s why I applied to the IPA Excellence Diploma - looking for an armour of books to protect me.  

I got all the reading and more, but that’s not what gave me conviction. The debates and discussions, having to write and defend it and learn and go again and again – that’s the special bit. The Diploma isn’t about learning how to do stuff, it’s about building your view on the industry, honing your style and space - deciding how you want to show up and push the industry.  

For me there was a point right after module two where I suddenly felt much more comfortable in my own skin professionally – a clearer sense of what I want this to all be about for me.  

The Diploma is without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve had. You will have moments where you want to quit, we all did. But most likely you’ll push through, and it’ll be worth it.  

Do it. You won’t regret it.” 

Grace Letley, Managing Partner ‑ Strategy, Vizeum UK  

Grace Letley

"I had incredibly high expectations of the IPA Excellence Diploma. The experience surpassed them all.

The Diploma is challenging, inspiring, wildly informative, ability-stretching and confidence-building. By signing up to this qualification, you are dedicating time to learning, debating and knowledge-sharing with some of the brightest minds in the industry.  Best of all, it’s an experience shared with a cohort of super-smart, candid and curious ad folk with a thirst to push the industry and themselves to be better.

Sera, Amelia and the IPA team have created a fantastic blueprint for the re-imagined IPA Excellence Diploma and I hope many more cohorts will benefit from undertaking the challenge." 

Emily Scovell, Joint Head of Planning, Mindshare UK 

"I was at a point in my career where I really wanted to push my thinking onwards, particularly broadening my understanding of marketing theory and effectiveness, as well as wanting to be able to properly articulate my views. I craved the discipline that studying would bring to these endeavours, and the accompanying deadlines to ensure I pursued them.  

The discipline and deadlines were tougher than I had imagined, but in equal measures, more rewarding. Everything I consumed, learned, or was inspired by, was immediately injectable back into real-life work.  

Overall, the Diploma was a rollercoaster of self-discovery, confidence peaks and troughs, and constant refinement. I came out of it MUCH better read, with stronger critical thinking skills, sharper viewpoints and more tools in my arsenal.  

Undoubtedly the best aspect of the entire program, is the network that was built within and lives on."

Chris Evans, Global Business Operations Director - Diageo, OMG/PHD

"Without doubt the IPA Excellence Diploma is one the best things I’ve done in my career.   

I’d hoped to build my professional confidence and competence, but came away with much more thanks to a wonderful group of people - from the IPA team, to our chairs and mentors, to my fellow #IPAExDip21 classmates. I’m still in touch with and learning from my brilliant classmates a year on which I think speaks volumes.

The course content the Qualification Chairs, Amelia and Sera, curated was great. Striking the right balance of academic and more practical learning. They challenged us as individuals and teams throughout and went above and beyond with their support and approachability too. Plus they are inspiring industry leaders and lovely people to boot.  

And all that is without mentioning the ridiculous line-up of other contributors – from guest speakers to judges, which was a veritable who’s who of industry luminaries past and present.

The IPA Excellence Diploma is a privilege. If you can do it, you absolutely should. You will love it and only hate it a little bit, at times, but in a good way."

Find out more and apply for the next intake


If you have any questions about the Excellence Diploma in Brands, get in touch at learning@ipa.co.uk.

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