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The Vega School of Brand Leadership’s (Vega) annual Brand Challenge has once again pushed students to answer real-world client briefs in this unique experience that has become synonymous with the Vega student experience. Vega is a division of the globally acclaimed Independent Institute of Education’s (The IIE).

Each year, students are grouped into ‘agencies’ comprising seven to eight students from second, third and Honours years of their respective creative or brand management degrees. Each agency offers various skills, such as copywriting, multimedia design, visual communications and strategy, to deliver a full agency service. Working with students from other disciplines equips them to deal with group conflicts while meeting deadlines, simulating what it will be like in the corporate and brand communications industry.

This year, the Brand Challenge clients included Hirsch’s, ABSA, Blue Sky Society Trust, WildAid, Tomy Takkies, International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), Vida e Caffè, Cipla, Dreamgirls International, Masslift SA, Mailbu, Grillo Cricket Bars and Playmaker. The clients pay for the privilege and the money goes into the school’s bursary fund, which assists economically disadvantaged but talented students in completing their studies.

During the five weeks, each ‘agency’ has to conduct field research into their client and their target market. They then have to develop a brand strategy and an execution rollout, which they have to present to their client at the end of the five weeks. The process mimics real agency dynamics and processes, which gives the students a taste for what’s in store for them when they seek employment after graduation.

The clients take things as seriously as the students. When Cipla, one of the previous years’ clients, returned to Brand Challenge, they presented mobile clinics and products they had developed based on student work the previous year. Microsoft ran ads by Durban students in national newspapers. Absa was so thrilled by the work of Durban students that they flew two teams up to Johannesburg three times to present to the rest of Absa, the CEO of Barclay’s Africa, and to Absa’s ad agency. At least two students were offered work while they were there.

The students themselves find the experience invaluable in preparing them for the challenges that they will face in agency life. Priyanka Padayachee, currently completing her Honours in Strategic Brand Communications, explains, “Throughout my Brand Challenge experience I’ve learnt to work within a team, understanding the importance of every member. I’ve learnt the importance of time management in meeting deadlines. Working within a budget, understand client briefs and strategising accordingly are some of the other key learnings. Most importantly though, I’ve ascertained that my passion lies within my chosen field.”

Vega has become one of the leading advertising and brand leadership tertiary institutions in the country through their unique approach to teaching. Their philosophy is to push students, called ‘explorers’, to think in entirely new ways in order to create innovative and dynamic thought leaders who are ready to excel in the creative sector.  

Vega is a brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), which is the country’s largest, most accredited provider of private education.  The IIE is internationally accredited by the British Accreditation Council.  Vega focuses on delivering highly skilled students that graduate work ready.

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