Kings College London Senior Marketing Officer, Davida ONeale on taking the 2016 IPA Foundation Certificate qualification and what she learned along the way.
When an email appeared in my inbox asking myself and my team if we wanted to take up the opportunity to study for the IPA Foundation Certificate – I felt the fear! I was only two months into my new role; workload was high, the pace was fast and let’s face it, I didn’t really know what I was doing! However, I didn’t want to appear like a rabbit caught in the headlights so I cheerfully responded with 'Thank you so much for the opportunity, I’d be delighted.' I wasn’t delighted.
So I panicked. 'I’m too old for this.' 'A two hour WRITTEN exam? Say what?' 'Advertising Agency? – I’m in in-house marketing!'
I then realised that panicking was unhelpful and unlikely to help me pass this exam, so I bravely decided to speak to my new colleagues, some of which I hadn’t even met yet. I casually asked them how they were feeling, secretly dreading that they would all be super cool about the whole thing. But thankfully, we were all in the same boat – a mixed bag of emotions – a little bit proud (that we were the ones to volunteer), a little bit nervous (to take an exam after many, many years) but mostly a little bit confused (how are we going to hold a pen for two hours!?)
So we formed a support group and met up several times before the exam to talk through the learning pathways, answer each other’s questions and help one another plan our revision tactics. This was incredibly useful and I would thoroughly recommend doing this if you work with other people also taking the exam. It’s really important to discuss the content with other people and hear their thoughts and understanding of the topics and balance that with your own take on it. We also invited the ever helpful, knowledgeable and brilliant Gwyn March, from the IPA, to talk to us and help us prepare for the exam and answer some of our questions. This was such a help.
The thing that struck me most about the learning process, and my colleagues have since said the same thing – was how genuinely interesting the content was. As an in-house marketer for a university, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how relevant the content would be to my role – but it was fascinating. Not only fascinating, but useful, up to date and applicable too.
There were seven learning paths all broken into manageable, digestible chunks. I really appreciated the varying ways the content was delivered – videos, pdfs, quizzes, case studies – something for every type of learner. What a great way to keep you interested and on your toes. I don’t know about you, but reading endless reams of text, graphs and figures sends me straight to sleep – but a quiz? That’s my kind of learning.
I particularly enjoyed the behavioural economics section – what an eye opener and full of great examples and wider reading materials. The John Lewis case study was brilliant and had me and my colleagues talking about it all the time. Because the IPA uses such up-to-date material, like this, it’s so engaging. We all remembered the amazing Christmas adverts and the huge turn around in public perception as a result of these ads – so to hear what happened behind the scenes, from multiple points of view was so interesting. I lost count of the amount of times I watched the John Lewis case study video – then went on YouTube to watch the Christmas ads in full. Sad, I know! The content most useful to my role was on how to write a creative brief – really applicable and I have taken that straight back to my day job.
I revised fairly steadily between November and February, but in a variety of ways. Sometimes for full days (with regular coffee and snack breaks of course) and sometimes for an hour here and there; on my lunch break, whilst cooking dinner, before Happy Valley came on the telly, even watching the case study videos whilst in the bath. Over share? Sorry.
The exam was nerve-racking, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But, you are all in it together and the time just flies. You get a choice of questions to answer, so you can pick those you’re most comfortable with and write confidently about what you know.
And guess what? You can hold a pen for two hours without your hand falling off.
Find out more about the 2017 IPA Foundation Certificate
Last updated 21/06/2016