Skip to main content




About this initiative

New Zealand is famous for being a green, rugby-loving paradise with nothing more troubling than endangered birds and the occasional lost hobbit. But there’s one sad statistic that few people know: New Zealand has the highest rate of male youth suicide in the world. At a time when male youth suicide is at an all-time high, yet conversations amongst the group were low, Dentsu Aegis New Zealand grabbed the headlines, got media talking and increased donations for Movember. All for the cost of a postage stamp.

SDG 3 Good health and well-being focuses on the major factors that influence the health of men worldwide. Though testicular is a relatively rare type of cancer, it is the most common form of cancer in men age 15 to 35. It is also the most treatable but to do that, it needs to be diagnosed first. How can we get men to examine themselves and bring up any issues with their doctor to get diagnosed in time? Another significant factor in SDG3 is mental health and its influence on resilience. The overwhelming majority of suicides worldwide are by men. So how do we make the issues around mental health for men more accessible?

Movember is a charity that raises money for Men’s mental health and testicular cancer charities. They do this by encouraging men to grow moustaches during November and to get everyone they know to sponsor them. Dentsu Aegis New Zealand’s goal was to make a success of this year’s campaign and raise money, as well as awareness.


There were several challenges the campaign faced. The first being that New Zealand has the highest number of charities per capita in the world, there’s one for every 100 adults. Why would anyone pay attention to their campaign? The second was that Movember has been going successfully since 2003 but is starting to lose its impetus. One reason for this is that facial hair has grown in popularity which means that sporadic mo-growing doesn’t stand out so much anymore. The third was the fact that Movember was a charity looking to raise money and did not want to have to spend it on media coverage.


The key element to the strategy was the switch of the target from ‘everyone’ to concentrating on ‘High School boys’. This was done for several reasons. Firstly, the highest rate of youth suicide occurs between the ages of 14-17, at High School. Secondly, we knew that if we could talk directly to the boys we could get them talking about issues amongst themselves, show those at risk that they were not alone and recruit new entrants to the Movember idea. For a young man, being able to grow facial hair marks a real rite of passage.

The issue faced by this most important of targets was that they were often banned by their school from participating.  How could we get young men to help fight mental health issues if they were unable to participate in the very charity that supports the cause? This was the point of social tension that we could use to spark interest in Movember and men’s health.


The idea used technology that was old a thousand years ago. We wrote a letter. The letter was addressed to 178 School Principals across New Zealand who wouldn’t allow their pupils to grow facial hair. We very politely asked them to relax their rule for the month of November to allow young men to be able to grow a moustache and thus openly support the charity that was supporting them. We sent the letter to 178 school principals across the country. But that wasn’t enough. To spark interest, we also sent the letter to national and regional newspapers who agreed to run the letter as full-page ads the same week. We knew that public opinion would add a lot of impetus to the letter. We also posted the letter on our Facebook page for our fans to see.


Mainstream TV networks, radio stations, online news outlets and 38 media outlets across the country picked up on the story thus reaching the whole adult population a couple of times over. We’d set up an important quandary: should schools be consistent with their rules? Or should they show greater support for the mental wellbeing of their pupils? The pressure worked wonders.


Tom Anderson, Creative at Barnes Catmur & Friends Dentsu said: "Shamefully, New Zealand has the highest rate of male youth suicide in the world. So we teamed up with The Movember Foundation, a men’s health charity that encourages the growth of moustaches throughout November, to help address the problem. We did it by targeting those who couldn’t take part. Ironically, high school boys have never been able to participate in Movember because of a school rule prohibiting facial hair. So we published a letter to every school in NZ with a clean-shave policy requesting that, for the first time, they suspend their rule. And it worked. We had a record number of signups, a record number of donations, and made national headlines. One letter started a national conversation about male youth suicide."


We spent $178 on postage stamps and generated over $1.7 million in donations – a 55% increase on a 3-year average and the best result in seven years. We also generated another $550,000 in media exposure for this vital cause, and put new momentum behind the brand. Most importantly, we created an environment where young men could talk about their health.  In partnership with the Dentsu Aegis Network New Zealand, Movember plans to continue the conversation with High School boys into 2018 and beyond.