LBB: ‘MO! MO! MO!’ How DDB Answered the Call of the Mo

20 years ago, in a pub in Melbourne, two Aussie blokes – Travis Garone and Luke Slattery – turned a conversation about fashion trends into one of the world’s biggest charity events. 
30 men banded together to grow brilliant moustaches as a way to raise money for prostate cancer research. The comradery spread wide and by the time 2004 rolled around, the number of ‘Mo Bros’ skyrocketed to 480 and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia received their first largest single donation of $54,000. 
Today, in 2023 this movement of men growing out their ‘stache as a sign of unity and hope is a worldwide phenomenon. Over 1000 men’s health projects are gaining significant donations and over six million ‘Mo Bros and Mo Sisters’ are joining forces to raise awareness surrounding men’s health issues. 
All moustaches are welcomed to participate, from the Errol Flynns to the Tom Sellecks, to the Freddie Mercurys to the Hulk Hogans. 
LBB’s Casey Martin spoke to DDB Group Melbourne’s creative partner, Giles Watson on what it takes to promote a good mo. 
LBB> The spot itself gives off a sense of nostalgia for a 1970’s cult classic film, what was the inspiration behind it?
Giles> The truth we started from was that men’s health is in crisis – and loneliness and isolation is causing men to seek help and companionship in the wrong places. Secret societies, dark algorithmic wormholes, single minded groups and online forums. Our campaign turned Movember into the world’s least secret, most inclusive society aimed at bringing people together rather than forcing them apart.
So it made sense to lean into the amazing visual world of cults, and secret societies. A visual world that kept everything feeling irreverent and playful… out of this world wacky.
LBB> When working on a global campaign, what is the first thing you ask/look for in the brief or brand to ensure success?
Giles> It may sound obvious, but a simple idea coming from a clear, sharp insight that can work across different cultures without losing its punch. With Movember, humour is key – which adds another layer of complexity to a global piece of work. That’s another reason we used an American-nostalgia aesthetic, as it makes the campaign familiar and relatable. After all, many of us have grown up with American TV shows.
LBB> The decision to create a symbol of unity, a beacon into the night like Batman is beyond brilliant. What has been the response so far? And how will this idea continue to manifest as November comes around?
Giles> Symbolism has always had a powerful effect. It brings people together. From religion and sporting clubs to the Illuminati and, yes, Batman – the greatest groups have been represented by powerful icons. Now, Movember has the all-saving ‘Mo’.
LBB> Talk us through the challenges when creating this spot? What did you learn?
Giles> Balance. Humour, severity of message, traditional and progressive notions of masculinity. The types of characters. There’s a lot of nuance and consideration in every decision to ensure the campaign landed in the sweet spot, hitting everything we needed to hit, without over-complicating or confusing the execution.
LBB> As an agency that is based in Australia, a country where men’s mental and physical health can often be pushed to the side due to some harmful stigmas and stereotypes of what it means to be ‘a man’, how did you work around and with those stigmas and stereotypes? What do you hope this spot achieves in the long run?
Giles> There are many barriers to seeking help. Stigmas, stereotypes, and social conventions undoubtedly hold men back, but there are too many for one ad to tackle.
The biggest social stigma we are fighting is that men feel alone, whether that’s in their illness, mental or physical, or in their desire to help other men. The fact is Movember works best by bringing men together to help each other. Talking to men as if they were at the pub, not at the clinic. By uniting men, we can show the similarities we share, our pains, but also our inspirations, to overcome all kinds of barriers.
Most excitingly, and without revealing too much, beyond the initial launch of this campaign, the “order of the Mo” world is set to become a much bigger launchpad for us for years to come, from creating October “shave down initiations”, to discovering just how vast and connected our society is… Stay tuned.
LBB> What was the best part of producing this spot?
Giles> Movember is a brand that really resonates with people, and thanks to that, we were able to access a load of awesome personalities, tools, and toys: the latest CGI tech, enlisting a Mongolian folk metal band for the track. A personal favourite moment was a remote voiceover record with English comedian and actor Matt Berry, during which it became all too clear how shockingly close to reality “Clem Fandango” is.
LBB> Bonus question here: How many of the mos were completely real and how many spent some time in a makeup chair?
Giles> The founders of Movember have kept a very strict rule since the foundation first began: No fake mos allowed. No exceptions.