When Adrian Lovett was a radio DJ in the 1980s, treating the residents of Bournemouth to American Pie when he needed a 'comfort break', he never thought he would end up sharing a stage with Nelson Mandela and becoming a key architect of Make Poverty History, one of the most successful political campaigns in recent memory.
Now, as Save the Children's director of comms and campaigns, he is orchestrating the global rollout of its new brand campaign. This will fundamentally shift the organisation's comms strategy from portraying children as victims, to the injustice of needless deaths and the simple measures that can save lives. It aims to give Save The Children a clearer positioning.
Lovett's role, as illustrated by this campaign, is to make Britons care about problems in countries they may not be able to find on a map. He has been quick to embrace the power of social media to break down barriers. This year, he was one of only 50 global bloggers allowed access, for the first time, to the press area of the G20 summit.
Meanwhile, the charity's Kroo Bay initiative has been fostering relationships between families in the UK and families living in a slum in Sierra Leone. Both groups communicate with each other via the internet. People are surprised, he says, by how similar the two groups are. 'It is one of the worst places in the world to be born, but the boys still kick balls around and the girls still talk about their hairstyles. My six-year-old has been emailing a boy called Bilal, and they were exchanging thoughts about Arsenal and Manchester United.'
Lovett realised early on he was interested in politics and social affairs. He left his role at Bournemouth's Power FM - 'I still love saying that,' he smiles - to do a politics degree and ended up working as an adviser to then Labour shadow backbencher Stephen Timms.
Timms says he first met Lovett when he came to interview him about 'ethical socialism' as a student and says his work since then 'has reflected his strong principles'.
'He played key roles in the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns and the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit, with its far-reaching commitments on debt relief and international aid,' he says.
'Adrian is astute, hard-working and effective. He gets on very well with all kinds of people and wins their trust.'
Lovett's first campaigning role at Jubilee 2000 introduced him to U2 frontman Bono. He accompanied the star on visits to US senators and was thanked on the album sleeve for U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Later, during his time at Oxfam, Lovett became co-lead on Make Poverty History for 15 months, acting as the bridge between the 450 charity member organisations and 'the creatives' like Richard Curtis.
It is clear he still has a deep commitment to the campaign's aims. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal the white band that sparked a rainbow of copycat bracelets for other causes and admits he rarely removes it.
It was this campaign, he says, that provided him with one of the most exciting days of his life. He addressed 20,000 people at the rally he organised at Trafalgar Square, which Nelson Mandela attended: 'I made eye contact with Nelson Mandela. For him it probably lasted three-quarters of a second, for me it lasted three hours.'
Lovett's influence on the campaign has not gone unnoticed. Nick Sireau, author of Make Poverty History: Political Communications in Action, says: 'Adrian was hugely influential. He came from a more moderate viewpoint, so was open to dialogue with the G8 and other political leaders.'
Justin Forsyth, head of campaigns at 10 Downing Street and Lovett's former boss at Oxfam, says: 'Adrian is one of the best campaigners in the world - passionate, strategic and with an instinct for the popular. He understands how high-level insider lobbying and mass mobilisation work together to achieve change.'
Lovett's use of humour and his ability to explain complicated concepts in plain English make it easy to see why he is such an effective communicator. He is still only 39, and puts his impressive CV down to being in the right place at the right time.
He now lives in Oxford with his wife and two children. It is a long way to commute to the charity's London base, but he is motivated by near-tragedy in his personal life. His daughter was seriously ill when she was born. Thankfully, she recovered, but the experience has had a lasting effect on Lovett.
'Both Oxfam and Save The Children were logical next steps from that moment for me. When you see your own child and all the fight they have in them, you know every child deserves a chance of life, and every child will take it. That is certainly a motivator for me.'
ADRIAN LOVETT'S TURNING POINTS
- What was your biggest career break?
In 1997 my friend Graham and I were talking about two jobs going at Jubilee 2000 - one as campaigns officer and one as deputy director. I thought I could get the more junior job. He said: 'Come on, go for the deputy, you can do that.' I got the job and a few months later we were organising a human chain of 70,000 people around the Birmingham G8 Summit.
- Have you had a notable mentor?
Ed Mayo was my chairman at Jubilee 2000 and is a living example of wise, cool judgement combined with a passion for changing the world. Justin Forsyth did the same when we were both at Oxfam. On Make Poverty History, Richard Curtis was brilliant at greeting every 'no' with the response, 'there will always be reasons to say no', and keeping on until we got the 'yes'.
- What advice would you give to anyone climbing the career ladder?
Just make sure it is leaning against the right tree.
- What qualities do you prize in new recruits?
Belief, impatience and an entirely justified bewilderment at the jargon of non-government organisations.
Tell PRWeek about your career turning point.
2007: Director of campaigns and communication, Save the Children
2004-2005: Co-lead, Make Poverty History
2001: Director of campaigns and communications, Oxfam
1997: Deputy director, Jubilee 2000
1995: Adviser to Stephen Timms MP, House of Commons
1992: BA in Politics (1st), Queen Mary College, University of London
1987: DJ and programme manager, Power FM