Duelling campaigns in hairy competition for cancer research funding

This November, both Movember and the Danish Cancer Society are encouraging men to grow facial hair for charity. But who will prove more successful?

Gimmicks are often used as a fun way to raise money and awareness for a chosen cause. But few campaigns have experienced as much success as Movember, an Australian charity that aims to raise money for research into prostate cancer, and awareness more generally about men’s health, by encouraging men to grow a moustache during November.

There are rules. On November 1, participating men must shave themselves clean and then tend to their moustache for the following 30 days. The moustache may neither meet the sideburns, that’s a beard, nor join hair on the chin, that’s a goatee. Other than that, it’s up to the man to decide whether to fashion it into a slender pencil or go for the full-on handlebars.

Movember arrived for the first time in Denmark last year after originating in Australia in 2003. In the intervening years, the campaign has spread to 22 countries and raised just over one billion kroner for research into men’s health issues, primarily prostate and testicular cancer. With 7,500 participants raising 1.1 million kroner, Denmark managed to draw in the most number of participants per capita than any other country in its first year.

“We had a brilliant first year in Denmark in 2011,” Movember spokesperson Dan Cooper told The Copenhagen Post. “We had great support and activation from our partners such as Björn Borg who had a moustache themed advertising campaign across Copenhagen and Arriva who placed moustaches on many of the buses across Denmark.”

The money raised in Denmark is being donated to a fund managed by the newly established Danish Prostate Cancer National Advisory Committee. According to Cooper, the committee is meeting for the first time this November to advise Movember on which areas of research should be prioritised before Movember distributes its first prostate cancer research grant for Denmark.

“This will be a multi-institutional grant award involving a number of hospitals and universities across Denmark,” Cooper said. “Following the completion of the Movember campaign in 2012, based on the advice of the Danish National Research Advisory Committee Movember will immediately launch a national Danish prostate cancer grant round in 2013, through an open, peer-reviewed process.”

The money is needed. There are currently over 20,000 men living with prostate cancer in Denmark and 1,120  men die every year from the disease. It is the most common cause of cancer in men and causes the second most number of cancer deaths every year, after lung cancer.

This fact is not lost on the Danish cancer society, Kræftens Bekæmpelse. In 2010, the year before Movember arrived in Denmark, it launched its own campaign ‘Vi gør det ik kun for skæg’ (‘We are doing it not just for the fun of it’. It’s a pun, ‘skæg’ means both fun and beard) in which Danish men were asked to grow a beard for six weeks starting November 1 to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues.

Neither Movember nor the Kræftens Bekæmpelse would comment on the clear similarity between the rival campaigns, though Movember can be credited with having first developed the ‘grow facial hair to support men’s health’ concept. Cooper from Movember simply stated that, “Movember exists in Denmark because of the great support we have had from Mo Bros and Mo Sistas wanting us to launch the campaign there.”

The Copenhagen Post was unable to reach Kræftens Bekæmpelse for a comment. But Poul Møller from Kræftens Bekæmpelse argued in an interview with Politiken newspaper last year that increasing the visibility of men’s health issues by having men grow beards was what was important – two campaigns simply meant more visibility.

“I think there is space for both campaigns,” Møller said, adding that the money raised by Kræftens Bekæmpelse would go to more than simply prostate cancer research. “What’s important is that people start to talk about prostate cancer or cancer generally. It can only be a win-win situation.”

Both campaigns report using only eight percent of the money raised on administration and operational costs, meaning that the decision on which campaign to choose rests on several other factors.

Kurt Vom Scheidt from Saxo Bank was last year's top fund raiser (Photo: Peter Stanners)

First are the types of facial hair that are permitted. ‘Vi gør det ik kun for skæg’ allows all forms of beards as opposed to Movember’s moustache-only campaign. If appearances are important, then men with poor upper lip growth might be better off promoting Kræftens Bekæmpelses campaign.

The second factor is the length of the campaign. Movember runs only during November while ‘Vi gør det ik kun for skæg’ runs for six weeks. If your significant other has trouble with the caterpillar growing above your lip, Movember might be the right choice, lest you put your relationship at stake.

The last factor is how the money is spent. Both campaigns will invest the money in Denmark though there are subtle differences in how it will be spent. Movember has promised to give the money, through a grant, to support prostate cancer research, while Kræftens Bekæmpelse said the money raised through ‘Vi gør det ik kun for skæg’ will go toward male cancer research and prevention and to support those with male cancers.

Even though November is a week away, the money is starting to trickle into both campaigns. At the time of going to print, Movember had raised 8,529 kroner in Denmark while ‘Vi gør det ik kun for skæg’ had raised 2,500 kroner.

Last year's top Movember fundraiser in Denmark was Kurt Vom Scheidt (left), an American employee of Saxo Bank, who raised over 35,000 kroner. Saxo Bank was also the most succesful team last year, pulling in over 145,000 kroner, or almost 20 percent of the total raised.

But Saxo Bank will have to redouble their efforts if they hope to keep the top spot. Mærsk has already raised 7,535 kroner against Saxo Bank's 1 krone.

Read more about Movember and 'Vi gør det ik kun for skæg'.

Support the Copenhagen Post's Movember team.