As we waited nervously outside the examination hall, many of us wondered if we could actually remember how to take an exam. A group of us – relative newcomers at Total Media – had signed up for the IPA’s Foundation Certificate the previous autumn, and now five months had flown by and we were faced with the task of completing a two hour, handwritten exam to broaden our knowledge of the advertising industry.
The qualification was established in 2003 in order to provide all those new to advertising (whether recent university graduates or those who have moved into the industry from other professions) with an overview of the advertising world. The exam’s credibility is reinforced by the fact that it is a qualification from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the professional body for advertising and media communications in the UK that defines, sets and maintains the highest possible standards of practice.
The course was broken down into seven distinct sections, ranging from advertising in its historical context to how to produce effective client, creative and communications planning briefs. Each segment’s content was communicated via interactive quizzes, webinars, videos and keynote readers, and culminated in February’s exam. We were also provided with a selection of the IPA’s Effectiveness Awards case studies to learn from, which are an invaluable source for looking at how all the theory we learnt can be successfully put into practice.
Of course, the main purpose of the exam was to help us excel in our roles within Total Media. One way that I found the qualification to be particularly effective in this respect was through its focus on the importance and subsequent implications of choice architecture, namely the following two principles: all choices are relative, and all effort counts. These tenets emphasise the importance of placing people at the heart of advertising. There’s little point in having amazing creative work if it isn’t going to reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message, and the Foundation Certificate provided me with the tools to put this strategy into action.