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30 May 2012

For those who haven’t noticed, November is no longer just the month for brandishing sparklers and premature Christmas shopping. It has now evolved into ‘Movember’ – an annual effort during which men (and some women) unite for the sake of a good cause and facial hair goes global.

The formula is simple, for one month of the year men become “MoBros” and pledge to support Movember through the act of growing a moustache (easier for some than others). Meanwhile their friends, family and “Mo Sistas” offer emotional support throughout the cultivation period and finally, provide sponsorship money which goes towards supporting the likes of The Prostate Cancer charity and the Institute of Cancer Research – key charities working in the field of two of the most prevalent cancers in the UK (prostate and testicular cancer).

Here at Forster we’re looking at campaigns that we admire or inspire us, the pin ups of the campaigning world if you will.  For me Movember fits nicely into this bracket what with its huge global appeal (runs across four continents), its ability to raise millions of pounds (£74.8 million raised during 2011) its ability to unite men (who we know can often avoid engaging around the issue of health) and all of this is done through the medium of facial hair. In fact this was the main reason I was compelled to select it – its ability to deliver serious messages around men’s health within a slightly ridiculous context.

It’s a really lovely thing to see, people uniting over something so silly, in a bid to pledge support for something so important. It’s the perfect antidote for members of society who don’t respond well to public health messages. Its ability to deliver health messages and provide a space for men to find important information about their health in a non-health environment is ideal. Much like a Red Nose, a furry top lip masks the brutality and seriousness of the issue that lies underneath. Be it transforming the lives of poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK and Africa or prostate and testicular cancer, the overall concept is the same, it’s about disassociating those things from the negative, playing on something positive and creating something achievable and fun for everyone who wants to be a part of it. We all remember those great teachers who taught us important things in a funny way, to me, this is just like that.

We know from previous projects we’ve worked on here at Forster (NHS Islington bowel cancer screening, Tower Hamlets smoking cessation) that men can be a notoriously, difficult group to engage with when it comes to their health. Therefore Movember, for me, provides good insight into how we can seek to deliver heath campaigns in the future and perhaps look at ways of delivering health messages in a non-health setting.  By doing this we may also be able to overcome that age-old challenge of over burdening people with too many serious health messages which can often lead to people burying their head in the sand and ignoring their health altogether.

Oh and Justin Bieber is one of its ambassadors, enough said.

To see more of what Movember crew are planning click here.

We’re running a series of knowledge sharing forums called Campaign Canteen, during which we’ll be addressing common campaign dilemmas. The first one, themed around creating social movement is a lunch time session on the 12th June and if you’re interested in attending please let me know by emailing