IPA Excellence Diploma: Viewpoints from the industry

As the first graduates of the IPA Excellence Diploma step up to take the plaudits, judges, mentors and agency chiefs explain why the Diploma matters.

IPA VIEW - The future is safe in their hands

- David Pattison, chief executive, PHD Media, and president, IPA

With the first delegates of The IPA Excellence Diploma graduated and more than 1,200 people awarded the Foundation Certificate, professional industry qualifications are becoming established. We must thank Stephen Woodford, my predecessor, for his vision and commitment to get these up and running.

There is already an Advanced Certificate being developed to sit between the two existing programmes.In addition, we have committed to Continuous Professional Development and any member agency that does not signal an intention to embrace CPD by the end of 2007, will no longer retain membership of The IPA.

All of this is part of the five-year plan we have to raise the real and perceived value of what we do for our clients.Under the leadership of Nick Kendall, to which the most sincere thanks, the Diploma is a tough programme, and designed to be so. The quality of thinking has been outstanding. I hope you will agree that the future of our industry is in very safe hands with brains like these.

It is incumbent on the rest of us to make sure we hand on the best industry we can to these future leaders. Commitment from all agencies would be a good place to start.

TRAINER - It builds confidence in business acumen

- Alison Mayersbeth, head of learning and development, MindShare

As a member of the IPA CPD Working Party and the IPA Trainers' Forum, I had the opportunity to participate in various course development discussions. I knew that this was going to be a premium learning experience, for the right person.

At MindShare, we wanted to assess the course's value for ourselves, while continuing to support CPD and industry qualifications.

The excellent design and content of the programme was a result of much planning, preparation and ongoing evaluation. The quality of the knowledge bank and the well-defined, stretching assignments were particularly impressive. Combined with their own practical experiences, these features would really encourage delegates in new thinking.

For the first Diploma programme, I provided a brief from which the executive management team identified several candidates. For the 2006 delegate, we asked candidates to pitch for the place.

The programme has unique qualities that make this a desirable qualification for those who want to work at the heart of building brand value and the role of communications. Mark Kirby, our first Diploma graduate, supports this view. Exploring territory he may not have experienced without the programme has given him greater confidence to engage with marketing partners, particularly when discussing a brand's strategy in a broader business sense.

MENTOR - Taking such time benefits the student and the mentor

- Derek Morris, vice-chairman, ZenithOptimedia

A great programme, but do think twice before you enter.

Its purpose is to develop the standards that exist in the professions, help quantify the value added and allow us to charge. That is not a lightweight ambition. Just ask any accountant about their P2s.

So either as mentor or mentee, realise the commitment it will take. Then, if you hang in there, the rewards are large.

It forces you to put in the time; time that perhaps once existed to train on the job but does not any longer. It forces you to discuss around an issue rather than get stuff done. It forces a rigour and discipline to a view that perhaps, at times, gets sacrificed for speed.

You see people grow and develop their own views, some of which you may not agree with, but then that's the point. To create people that can genuinely think for themselves. Oh, and along the way you, the mentor learns they don't know everything.

That's not to say that the programme does not have areas for development. At times, it is long-winded and at times needs to find the line between academia and practical purpose.

However, the biggest problem is that the IPA Excellence Diploma is a major investment in both time and money, so it is for your lead players.

The trouble is, these are the people you turn to when you need to stretch your company's delivery. So you steal back the time you gave them to do the programme.

But then, I suppose, that is exactly why the programme was designed; to make the industry develop and not just do.

CREATIVE AGENCY - Diploma makes us all think differently

- Bruce Haines, group chief executive, Leo Burnett

The IPA Excellence Diploma requires stamina, creativity, intellectual rigour, reasoned debate and passion and originality of thinking. What we are looking for in our next generation of senior talent and what clients need from us.

By sending great people on this course, we're not only investing in our top talent, but stimulating debate and thinking across a wider team. The fact that each participant needs a mentor who has to have read the same books and comment on their essays, encourages many more of us to read, think and debate.

And as each essay has to be related to a piece of existing business, it creates an opportunity for the agency to demonstrate challenging thinking outside of the normal creative development process.

Qualification is a "CV enhancer" and the next generation is jostling for position. We are constantly seeking ways to show our commitment to knowledge, thought-leadership and new ways of working, so participation in the IPA Excellence Diploma is a no-brainer. Any agency that gives its people the chance to take part is indicating that it regards the future of our industry to be as exciting and sound as its past.

MODULE EDITOR AND JUDGE - Learn to flex the creative muscle

- Gerry Moira, director of creativity, Euro RSCG London, and editor of Module 4, Brands & Creativity

I allowed myself to be sucked into the vortex of pain that is the IPA Excellence Diploma for three reasons: 1. That charming man Nick Kendall. 2. I had nothing better to do at the time. 3. I believe that creativity has to escape the confines of the creative department if we are to remain a useful communications tool in the work-belt of capitalism.

I, and every other creative director, have a vested interest in training a motivated, educated and creatively literate cadre of account handlers/planners and media strategists. Too many suits and planners think creativity is none of their business, when in fact it's our only business.

I wanted these young people to understand too that creativity is more than the ability to write or design ads. Our reading list embraced movies, architecture, shopping, literary criticism, Eddie Izzard and Kylie Minogue. I believe creative instinct, rather than being God-given, is something you can develop. Like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. I like to think most "students" find the Brands & Creativity Module a fun break from the heavy stuff, and that's why I'm a bastard when marking their papers.

The Jesuit educational mantra reads: "Give me a child until he's seven and he's mine for life." I say: "Put me in a lecture room with lots of impressionable young women and I'll run this course for as long as they'll let me."

MEDIA AGENCY - Graduates bring instant returns for clients

- Neil Jones, managing director, Carat

We nominated two of our rising stars to undertake the first IPA Excellence Diploma in 2005 to ensure we were up to date with the newest IPA initiatives and to develop our best people on what promised to be the best learning option in the industry at this level.

Our clients have already seen returns from working with our Diploma graduates - their deeper understanding of the creation and evolution of their clients' brands has allowed them to see how the creative and the media plan together can deliver brand value.

Studying for the Diploma has allowed them to stay abreast of the latest thinking in the marketing industry and their more rounded understanding of how communications can work from a brand and business perspective has been priceless to Carat and its clients.

Both graduates have said they have experienced a renewed vigour and questioning approach to their work, which has driven them to push clients' brands in exciting directions.

The Diploma also explores how creative and media agencies can work together to compliment each other. Our agency restructure is focused on developing mini-agencies within Carat to create multidisciplined functions working together. Our Diploma graduates will not only fully understand the need to drive this change, but will be able to champion its rationale throughout the agency and act as key influential business partners.

THE SPONSOR - Imparting the skills for tomorrow's industry

- Henry Lawson, president, Donovan Data Systems

I have always believed that people are the cornerstone to success in any business.

Companies that make it to the top are the ones that hire great people and develop them throughout their career. Nowhere is this more true than in the agency world, where the increasing complexity of brand communications demands highly trained and flexible people. The IPA Excellence Diploma is an admirable initiative that promotes professionalism in our industry far beyond the candidates on the programme, which makes me proud to sponsor it.

Understanding how the industry is changing is our business at DDS. Today, there are hundreds of ways to reach consumers, and, as a result, agencies have become multidisciplined. By providing a thorough grounding in the industry and an in-depth understanding of communications channels essential to brands, the Diploma equips young people with the skills to be successful in this world.

I'm impressed with the commitment shown by the first group of Diploma recipients and their mentors. Undertaking rigorous studies while pursuing full-time work takes a special dedication. The quality of the Diploma work is outstanding and I urge everyone to read the submissions in this supplement.

The measure of success is when people get more out than they put in - something I'm sure this year's recipients of the IPA Excellence Diploma have more than achieved.


THE ESSAYS - In 30 seconds, by the authors

PRESIDENT'S PRIZE - Faux-branding and instant fame by David Young

I believe ... we have reached a turning point in our society where there is a kind of celestial alignment of prevailing cultural trends: The obsession with immediate fame; the fascination with conspiracy; the desire to decode and uncover unknown facts. Each of these combine in an almost alchemical way to produce the next evolution in Brand Theory. The climate has now been created to incubate and sustain Faux-brands through their own self-fulfilled prophecies.

- David Young, account director, RKCR/Y&R

DISTINCTION - Learning from monkeys by Sam d'Amato

I believe ... that the brands and agencies of the future will need to utilise what I call an "outside-in" approach. They will need to access consumers' "own networks" and get them to "work" for them, and it will be the companies that manage and measure our "employment" most effectively, that succeed.

- Sam d'Amato media planner, OMD UK

DISTINCTION - Act natural by Bryony Fox

I believe ... the terms brand and branding are used in such a carefree way they have lost some of their usefulness. This matters because without a clear definition of brands you cannot think clearly about them.

- Bryony Fox, former account director, Ogilvy & Mather

DISTINCTION - Brain's inner workings by Alex harrison

I believe ... the brain's inner workings hold the future of brand communications.

- Alex Harrison planner, Freud Communications

DISTINCTION - Evolution in the head by Tom Roach

I believe ... the future needs a new breed of communications idea: one that evolves from the bottom-up rather than being imposed on consumers from the top-down.

Tom Roach, account planner, AMV BBDO.