IPA announces 2020 Excellence Diploma results

The awards, special prizes and distinction essays from the 2019-20 IPA Excellence Diploma.

The IPA has announced the results of its 2020 Excellence Diploma, the pinnacle of its industry qualifications’ programme. The awards were presented to the successful adland delegates by IPA President Nigel Vaz, BBH Co-Founder John Bartle, Excellence Diploma Co-Founder Nick Kendall and qualification Co-Chairs Sera Holland and Amelia Torode via an online ceremony.

In total, the high-profile industry judging panel* awarded four special prizes and fifteen Diplomas; three distinctions, seven credits and five passes.

The President’s Prize for Outstanding Body of Work

  • Omar El-Gammal, Planning Director at Wunderman Thompson London

Omar was awarded the President’s Prize for Outstanding Body of Work, which includes his opinion piece Why Fearless Alienation Can Be a Powerful Brand Strategy, his essay The Wide and the Narrow of It and his 'I Believe' essay, An Evolution of Weeds and Trees.

Commenting on the President’s Prize, Nigel Vaz, IPA President and Chief Executive of Publicis Sapient said: "The body of work that Omar has submitted throughout the IPA Excellence Diploma - his ideas, his arguments and his eloquence, is stand-out. He creates fascinating hooks that draw you in and have you craving more, he draws on many examples beyond advertising to enrich, illustrate and substantiate his arguments, and he displays a deep understanding of how to balance positive societal impact with business outcomes."

The John Bartle Prize for Best I Believe

  • Lisa Thompson, Planning Director at Wavemaker North

Lisa was awarded The John Bartle Prize for Best 'I Believe' essay by John Bartle, Nick Kendall, Sera Holland and Amelia Torode for her piece, I believe to unlock the ‘Collective Genius’ of the industry we must kill the elephant in the diversity room - social class.

Says John Bartle, Co-Founder, BBH: "We chose Lisa’s essay to receive the John Bartle prize because she shines a light on an area of diversity that we agree needs more focus; social class. As she says, social class really is the elephant in the diversity room. She makes an impassioned and well-argued plea in her very well written and thoughtful essay for diversity to be broadened by including social class more in the very important debates that are had around gender and ethnicity. Do this and it will bring greater breadth of thinking to the industry, to the benefit of all.

"When we award this prize we look for the boldness and originality of the challenge, for the crucial balance between analysis of the issue and action, and for presentation quality. Lisa ticks all these boxes outstandingly."

The Drum Prize for Best New Industry Voice

  • Laura Sammarco, Strategy Director, ENGINE UK

This was awarded by The Drum’s Stephen Lepitak and Sonoo Singh to Laura Sammarco for her opinion piece, Is adland's mission for female empowerment having the opposite effect?.

Judges Stephen Lepitak and Sonoo Singh commented: "When we were asked to be involved in the newly redesigned Excellence Diploma, we thought it was a great opportunity to not only support a vital programme of training and development that the industry now needs more than ever, but to find new voices in that industry from the participants themselves.

"We were looking for new perspectives on established issues, new takes on much hyped trends, and most crucially, challenging thinking that our readers are crying out for in order to help them understand and navigate our collective business. Laura’s essay delivered this and more: in her take on gender diversity - a topic that is rightly at the forefront of discussion and has been for some time - she offered a view that perhaps it is not more of the same action we need, challenging us to take a step back and look at what’s not working, as well as what is.

"This is the kind of voice we look for at The Drum and as well as congratulating Laura, we look forward to reading what she writes next."

The Chair’s Prize for Attitude and Inspiration

  • Geia Lopez, Principal Industry Analyst at Google Philippines

The Chair’s Prize for Attitude and Inspiration, awarded by Sera Holland and Amelia Torode, was won by Geia Lopez.

Commenting on the award, Sera Holland and Amelia Torode said: "We are delighted to award this prize to Geia for her focus and determination to never stop challenging herself and others, her drive to improve and explore, and the incredible energy and positivity she brought to this endeavour."

Complete list of Diplomas awarded:

Pass with Distinction

  • Omar El-Gammal, Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson London
  • Grace Letley, Managing Partner – Strategy, Vizeum UK
  • Laura Sammarco, Strategy Director, ENGINE UK

Pass with Credit

  • Andy Cridland, Director, Global Brand Strategy & Planning, BlackRock
  • Rachel D'Cunha, Strategy Partner, Wavemaker UK
  • Chris Evans, Group Projects Director, Omnicom Media Group UK
  • Geia Lopez, Principal Industry Analyst, Google Philippines
  • Kiron Mair, Senior Strategist, Cheil London
  • Josh Taylor Dadds, Strategy Director, VMLY&R London
  • Lisa Thompson, Planning Director, Wavemaker North


  • Bianca De Bono, Strategy & Planning, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG)
  • Lucia Gonzalez de Cueto, Freelance Brand and Innovation Consultant
  • Ben Levy, Journey Design Lead, Wavemaker UK
  • Emily Scovell, Joint Head of Planning, Mindshare UK
  • Gemma Swinglehurst, Industry Manager, Google UK

'I Believe' Distinctions

Kiron Mair, Grace Letley and Chris Evans were all awarded Distinctions by the judging panel for their ‘I Believe’ body of work, consisting of a 2,500-word essay and a panel interview examination.

Co-Chairs Sera Holland and Amelia Torode said: "It has been a privilege to chair the Excellence Diploma and build a programme that we would have loved to participate in ourselves. Huge thanks must go to all of the speakers, judges and everyone involved with the programme for the challenging and inspiring Diploma that we’ve put together.

"All of our graduates have worked tirelessly over the last few months in difficult circumstances to deliver some truly outstanding pieces of work. Congratulations to each and every one of you, you are the future of our industry."

Nigel Vaz, IPA President and Chief Executive of Publicis Sapient added: "Now, more than ever, it is vital that agencies partner for growth with our clients to help them not just survive but to transform for the future. These successful IPA Excellence Diploma graduates are great exemplars of future agency heads addressing this very need.

"They have dedicated their time, energy, commitment and enormous brain power to produce some truly thought-provoking, forward-thinking, alternative ways of looking at our business. They have challenged accepted norms, they have turned ideas on their head and, crucially, they have provided tangible, realistic, exciting proposals for our business to reimagine itself going forward.

"I recommend everyone in our business, at all levels, to read these exceptional papers and to consciously mull over how they can heed these lessons. I believe they hold the key to how our business can thrive going forward."

IPA Excellence Diploma Co-Chairs

  • Sera Holland, Co-Founder, The Fawnbrake Collective
  • Amelia Torode, Co-Founder, The Fawnbrake Collective

*IPA Excellence Diploma Judges

  • Tess Alps, Executive Chair, Thinkbox
  • John Bartle, Co-Founder, BBH
  • Geoff de Burca, Chief Strategy Officer, MediaCom
  • Kate Cox, Chief Marketing Officer, Moneypenny
  • Laura Jordan Bambach, Chief Creative Officer, Grey London
  • Jed Hallam, Chief Strategy Officer, Initiative
  • Sera Holland, Co-Founder, The Fawnbrake Collective
  • Emily Horswell, Strategy Director, eatbigfish
  • Cecilia Hund, Strategy Director, eatbigfish
  • Richard Huntington, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Lucy Jameson, Founder, Uncommon London
  • Nick Kendall, Excellence Diploma Co-Founder
  • Stephen Lepitak, Executive Editor, The Drum
  • Gabriela Lungu, Global Creative Director, Geometry UK and Founder, WINGS Creative Leadership Lab
  • Andy Nairn, Founding Partner, Lucky Generals
  • Sonoo Singh, Associate Editor, The Drum
  • Amelia Torode, Co-Founder, The Fawnbrake Collective
  • Johnny Vulkan, Founding Partner, Anomaly
  • Nigel Vaz, IPA President and Chief Executive, Publicis Sapient
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Last updated 01 May 2024