Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Just a mo, here's an idea

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Movember campaign is changing the faces of men - and the face of fundraising

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

Movember is upon us once again and everywhere you look men are sprouting everything from a wispy, insubstantial crumbcatcher on their upper lip to the other extreme: the full Sainsbury.

I don't have to go far to see a smashing moustache on a daily basis. My husband, who was a hair model in his teens, progressed to a full beard when we first courted, then became the long-time owner of a 70s-style lip rug.

I wouldn't say he is the proud owner of this face furniture; he keeps it more to please me (but drew the line at the gold chain and ingot I bought to show off his hairy chest). But it has sometimes been a struggle for him, as New Zealand women seem to need smelling salts whenever a man with a genuine moustache (not a Movember mo or an ironic, hipster-doofus statement-moustache) is in their vicinity. For their own husbands, it's a definite no, with all sorts of unpleasantness threatened if their men dare progress past the two-day stubble stage.

Maybe it's my European side coming through, but I sometimes think I must be the only woman in New Zealand who appreciates hair on a man. And while I don't really go in for the ZZ-Top-style redneck special (which - true story - will have its own category at the upcoming 2013 Redneck Games in Mt Vernon, Texas), I do like a moustache or beard on a man with the right kind of hair, worn with the right kind of attitude.

I guess Movember, which aims to improve men's health, gives the nation's males a reason for sporting a cookie duster that won't scare the horses. Increasingly, the cause is also being embraced not just by women, but also by companies eager to get in behind something that not only burnishes their cool credentials but also gets consumers talking. In the US, global companies such as Gillette and Giordana are on board, says the New York Times.

Movember's purpose is wide-ranging, encompassing testicular and prostate cancer and depression, and everything else a man doesn't like going to the doctor to get checked out.

It's a bit of marketing brilliance on the part of its four Australian founders and has hit a nerve in an age where men's health is generally seen as overshadowed by more government money for regular screening (and better health results) for women.

But it does make me wonder if more charities are going to have to try adopting the Movember model, which seems to place money-raising firmly behind awareness-raising; a party that brings people together to get them talking, then puts the inevitable proceeds to good works, rather than the old model of fundraising for worthy causes.

It is, of course, easier said than done. You could try spinning off Stroketober, April Tool's Day, Jubbly July or even Left Ventricle June and still be a long way from achieving the reach that one clever idea like Movember has gained.

But the moustache-fest and its associated message have hit home in a way few other campaigns have, so the approach is worth emulating. The only tricky bit will be finding a clever way to enlist body parts that aren't as visible - or as comic - as facial hair.

- NZ Herald

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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