Asian face joins Movember movement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2014, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 2014, 5:46pm

Movember has been trimmed and reshaped for its third official year in Hong Kong. In moustache speak, you could say it's a bit more Fu Manchu than handlebar.

Greg Rafferty, head of Movember Asia, explains that the charity has taken on a more Asian flavour this year, with Hong Kong graphic designer Timothy Wong as one of the faces of Movember's global marketing campaign, which runs in 21 countries.

"One of the challenges we faced in the first two years was that all the images of Movember were of Western guys. The perception in the local community was that it was a Western campaign," says Rafferty. "The imagery of having a local person is very powerful."

In addition, campaign posters, which offer men's health tips and are handed out for free, have been printed in Chinese to fully engage the local community.

"Companies were telling us that Movember is a good campaign but that their staff said they couldn't engage in it because it is not in their language," says Rafferty.

With this makeover, Movember is targeting 5,000 men and women in Hong Kong to participate in this year's campaign. There were 2,000 in 2012 and 2,700 last year.

After registering at guys - or "Mo Bros" - begin November clean shaven, and then grow a moustache for the rest of the month. Supported by the women in their lives (the "Mo Sistas"), these men then become walking billboards to raise awareness, and funds, for prostate cancer and men's health issues.

A number of personalities will help front Hong Kong's 2014 Movember campaign as ambassadors, including singer Alex Lam Tak-shun, racing driver Darryl O'Young, Canto-pop star Ryan Hui, artists Peter Yuill and Mark Goss, and Hong Kong rugby captain Nick Hewson.

The latest campaign will use art as a way to "create conversations" about men's health issues, explains Rafferty.

Last week, a pop-up photo exhibition was held in Sheung Wan to showcase 20 portraits of moustachioed men. Artists Yuill and Goss have also created mo-inspired murals at Square Street and Graham Street.

In a repeat of last year's efforts, Star Ferry has given one of their boats a hairy makeover.

With the campaign becoming more established in Hong Kong, Rafferty says it's been easier to find partners and sponsors. "We spent a lot of time proactively looking for partners for the first two. This year we have been approached by many parties interested in supporting the campaign," says Rafferty.

All funds raised in Hong Kong will stay in the city. The main beneficiary will be the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.

Movember is currently funding the Cancer Fund's "Going Through" project, Hong Kong's first community-based free rehabilitation service designed to help prostate cancer patients overcome the cultural, physical and psychosocial obstacles associated with the disease to achieve well-being.

The Movember idea was born in Melbourne in 2003 as a joke between friends to bring the moustache back in fashion. There were 30 participants in the first year, although no funds were raised.

Since then, more than four million people have joined the campaign, raising a total of A$579.9 million (HK$4 billion). Most of the funds go towards about 800 programmes in 21 countries.

Investing in research that significantly improves the physical and mental health of men with prostate cancer is the priority, says Paul Villanti, executive director of Movember's programmes.

"Essentially, we're asking guys each year to do the same thing: grow a moustache. But what we've found is that, while people were initially attracted to the campaign because it's fun, attitudes are now changing," says Rafferty.

"People have stuck around because they have become passionate about the causes that Movember stands for," he says .