Movember focuses on breaking down emotional isolation

The non-profit launches a campaign to help men support each other through mental health challenges they're facing during the pandemic.


Movember has launched a new video series, part of an outreach campaign it has developed around men’s isolation and tackling mental health issues that may be exacerbated by COVID-19.

The men’s health non-profit has so far released three episodes of its “Reboot” series, hosted by Movember’s global director of mental health training Dr. Zac Seidler. In it, Seidler speaks with subject matter experts and focuses on a range of topics from suicide to social isolation to dealing with the absence of sports.

Likely best known for its annual fundraiser for cancer research, Movember has used its “stop men from dying too young” mission to move into other issues, namely mental health and suicide among men. Karli Kirkpatrick, the charity’s Canadian marketing director, tells strategy that, because of this, the organization knows the triggers that puts men at most risk for mental health issues and suicide risk.

Pre-pandemic, Movember was planning its annual Testicular Cancer Awareness campaign for April, and Kirkpatrick says it made the decision in early March to pivot away from what was going to be a more cheeky effort. That’s based on insights that men comprise 75% of suicides in Canada, and that this could be exacerbated during a time when they are expected to maintain physical distancing and experiencing additional stress due to the realities of the pandemic.

“In situations like this pandemic, many of those risk factors and triggers – like job loss and dissolution of relationships – are converging into a compressed time-frame and it is critically important that we provide our community with the tools and resources to be able to manage their mental health,” she says.

Another one of those resources is “A.L.E.C.”, an easy-to-remember acronym – similar to Heart & Stroke’s “F.A.S.T.” signs for recognizing a stroke – for how to check in on the well-being of loved ones: “ask,” “listen,” “encourage action,” and “check in.” It’s based on insights Movember released last year showing over half of Canadian men feel like society expects them to be “emotionally strong,” even though 50% of those men between 18-34 admit to avoiding speaking about their problems for fear of being seen as “less of a man.”

According to Kirkpatrick, the purpose of A.L.E.C. is to provide a simple guide that can empower men to overcome that hurdle and get critically important mental health conversations started. The charity is also asking its community to take the “Five-A-Day Challenge,” taking five minutes each day to check in with a buddy.

Movember is using a combination of new creative from the team at U.K. creative agency Matta and locally produced social and storytelling content from its internal content manager Chelsea Blazer to promote A.L.E.C., the “Five-A-Day Challenge” and other messages emphasizing and normalizing men reaching out to discuss their mental health struggles.

Kirkpatrick acknowledges that charitable giving is declining across the board in Canada, as is charitable share of wallet – how many charities someone is likely to donate to in a year. But she says Movember’s point of differentiation – and a key element of this campaign – has always been the peer-to-peer aspect, and the personal connections that come from supporting a friend, husband, family or colleague through a donation or by reaching out to do a mental health check-in.

This campaign will be executed in both English and French. “We are focusing largely on social and digital executions, which is in line with our ‘go to where men are’ strategy,” Kirkpatrick says, though it will have spots for radio and broadcast available for any donated space it is able to secure during this time.

UM is Movember Canada’s media agency of record, but it worked with Bountiful Cow, the MAOR for its U.K. office, on this campaign, as it could work closely with Matta and deliver on the tight turnaround time presented by the urgency of the situation, Kirkpatrick says. Movember is currently working with UM on its plans and contingencies for its namesake fundraiser in the fall.