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The rewards of marketing the bear necessities for Children in Need

Children in Need appeal

10 November 2017

Marketing graduate Andy Unsworth talks about how his journey has led him to work for one of the UK's top charities.

Standing on the studio floor with a record breaking total announced on screen, crowds began to cheer. It was then that Andy Unsworth (BA Advertising and Marketing, 2012) knew he’d made it into one of the best jobs in marketing.

Working as a Strategic Planner for BBC Children in Need, Andy was getting to see how an organisation’s strategy and delivery wasn’t leading to only paper successes, improved sales and brand metrics, but better lives for young people and their families dealing with poverty, deprivation and disadvantage. This wasn’t just another product, but a much-loved charity that all corners of the UK came together to support.  

“For those in the team who experience their first Appeal night it can be overwhelming,” said Andy. “When you’ve been involved from the beginning, designing the strategy, planning events and going through months of hard work. Seeing the actual amount of money being raised on the board has people in tears.”

During its 2016 campaign, Children in Need raised a record £60 million for more than 2,400 charity projects.

Andy’s career journey wasn’t planned, it took different experiences and lessons for the route to become clearer.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do at all. It was a college tutor who recommended Lancaster for marketing and advertising, and it was that initial push and sense of direction that made the difference. I knew that Lancaster wasn’t just a standard place to go to study, it had a great reputation internationally. I was proud to be part of a place like that, and that association gave me the confidence to believe I could do anything I wanted.”

The LUMS environment for living and learning was also important to Andy.

“There’s a community there. It was something I noticed during the Open Day that made it stand out from the other campuses I visited - it was a self-contained village in a rural landscape, everything you wanted was there, as well as having a town nearby for getting out.”

Leaving school around the time of the global recession sharpened Andy’s focus, both in making the choice of studying for a specific career in marketing and doing all he could to ensure a way into an uncertain jobs market.

“It made me even more determined to equip myself to cope, in terms of solid qualifications and hard experience on the CV. The placement I was able to arrange opened up the doors for me to go straight into a full-time advertising role as soon as I finished studying.”

Andy moved from an integrated advertising agency in Manchester - one part of the global J. Walter Thompson network - into an independent agency in the same city, allowing him to take on more a strategic brand development position.

“It was important to have the chance to work in the different kinds of operations. CheethamBellJWT was like being part of a family; BJL brought more opportunities to specialise. By moving on I got to pick up experience across the range of sectors - law, telecoms, burgers, you name it - to explore what I most enjoyed doing and meet new people along the way.”

It was through one of these contacts that Andy was picked out for Children in Need in 2015 when the BBC’s charity was looking for talent to join its operations at Media City in Salford. 

So what’s it like working for a national institution like BBC Children in Need?

“The question I always get asked first is what I do for the rest of the year,” Andy says. “It’s a big misconception! That one night is only made possible by a non-stop round of activity. We don’t stand still, we’re always looking for ways to improve, raise more money and help children and young people that need us most. That means a new plan each year, always staying in touch with our supporters and backers for their input, making sure we deliver the best possible campaigns and engaging with the population in the right ways. 

“Whatever role you have it’s important to get to see how the funds are being used, and so everyone has the chance to go out to visit projects and talk to people involved, to keep remembering what it’s all for. It’s also amazing to see the reaction to Pudsey Bear - not just among children - because he has become such a recognisable character. He stands for the whole idea of helping children.

“On the day of Appeal itself I’m in the studio with the team managing the social media streams of content, doing a lot of writing and making sure we keep up the dialogue with people doing their thing around the UK. It might look seamless, maybe even glamorous, but that’s only possible with a lot of work behind the scenes. It’s all worthwhile though.

“For me, being at Lancaster meant getting a preparation for work that was second to none. There’s a confidence and reputation you get from having been there - and I’d say that students should never underestimate the opportunity it provides. Not everyone has that chance.”


To donate to this year's Children in Need appeal, go to the Make a Donation page.