Co-director of the Master in Digital Marketing & Coca-Cola exec Esther Morillas explains the power of the program

Esther Morillas is the Director of Marketing for Coca-Cola Spain and the Co-director of the Master in Digital Marketing. We chatted with her to find out what exactly the program does to prepare graduates for the fast-paced world of MarComs.

“When am I going to use this in real life?”

It’s a common complaint from students across all countries, universities and programs who tire of hearing theory with no connection to the real world, or no visible application to where they’re going after graduation: the workforce. For students in IE University’s Master in Digital Marketing, however, this is not a question you’ll hear often. The entire program, from conception and design to assignments and projects, was created for just that purpose—to teach students practical, in-demand skills and connect those skills to the workplace.

I know what you’re thinking: pretty much all graduate programs say they do that. But not all graduate programs are overseen by an executive at a multinational company. You read that right. IE University’s Master in Digital Marketing is co-directed by Esther Morillas, the Director of Marketing for Coca-Cola Spain. Prior to her 18 years at Coca-Cola, Esther worked as Brand Manager for L’Oreal and Nivea, so her professional experience leaves nothing to be desired.

The Master in Digital Marketing, in Esther’s words

Always interested in close relationships to business schools and staying connected with students’ fresh, new ideas, Esther saw an opportunity to ensure students are prepared for life after university. When asked why she was interested in IE University specifically, Esther told me it was because she saw the university as being positioned on the forefront of the digital revolution, handling digital transformation particularly well.  

This inspired the entire concept and design of the Master in Digital Marketing—a program not focused on traditional marketing concepts and theory with only a small digital marketing module attached, but rather, an entire program revolving around the new, critical skills students need to succeed in today’s marketing environment. Digital marketing is no longer a silo, but a new way of working. In Esther’s own words, TV campaigns just aren’t the brand marketing of the future. Consumers work in a digital environment, and that’s where brands need to reach them.

A capstone project that reflects reality

This attitude of practical skills connected to the real world culminates in the capstone project at the end of the program. In this capstone, students are tasked with creating a marketing plan based on a detailed business brief complete with background information about the brand, as much data as possible, and specific objectives to meet in the form of KPIs to achieve at the end of the project.

Did I mention that it’s not theoretical? The brief that students receive is one that Coca-Cola actually gives to agencies they partner with. It’s an actual project that the actual company is undertaking. And more than just a one-way exchange, where students work on a project and turn it in, the capstone serves as a two-way relationship: finished student projects are pitched to a panel of IE University professors as well as representatives from Coca-Cola, where standout ideas are taken by Coca-Cola and used in the campaign. That’s right, students have the chance for their work to be reflected in the marketing plan for a real Coke brand. Pretty cool right?

With all this up-to-date practical knowledge and application to real companies and real projects, I’m sure you’re wondering about job prospects after graduation. I know I was, which is why I made a point to ask Esther about it. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola doesn’t often hire fresh graduates directly from the program, as the company works mainly on strategy and therefore seeks those with more experience. 

But that doesn’t mean students don’t end up in big companies after graduation. Many of them do, thanks to the experience and exposure they gained through the program. Still, others decide to become their own agency—just like the ones Coca-Cola partners with and they acted as—in order to address pressing challenges and exciting possibilities they see in today’s marketplace. 

“When am I going to use this in real life?” Well, for students in IE University’s Master in Digital Marketing, who just might see some of their original ideas and hard work reflected back at them the next time they seen an ad for a Coca-Cola brand, the answer to that question, given with a smile and a gleam in the eye, is: “I already am.”


Jeff Thomson is an educator and life-long learner currently pursuing his third master’s degree through IE University’s Master in Talent Development & Human Resources.  Passionate about L&D and organizational development, he aspires to improve the employee experience so that more people go to work happy, productive, and satisfied. Get in touch with him here.