Get Your Mo On

LA-based Melbournite Adam Garone, Founder and Global CEO of Movember, gives Billabout an insider’s perspective on starting the global movement that is literally “Changing the Face of Men’s Health.”

An idea over beers. Movember started in 2003 and was originally a discussion over beers on a Sunday afternoon between my brother (the man behind the creative) and another mate about 70’s and 80’s fashion, and “what ever happened to the moustache?” A lot more beers into the day and we came up with a challenge to bring back the “Mo.” It was for no particular reason other than just to challenge our mates and have some fun.

Simple rules. We renamed November “Movember” and set the rules: start the month clean-shaven and grow a moustache. When you’re growing a moustache for no particular reason, it creates so much conversation about why you are doing it, and it falls pretty flat when you don’t have an excuse. At the end of the month, we threw a party and everyone came dressed to suit their moustaches, and I said to the guys, “we need to legitimize this because it was so much fun,” and “how about we put a cause behind it?”

Female inspiration. Everything that women are doing for breast cancer is inspiring, however we noticed that there was nothing for men’s health; prostate cancer is the male equivalent of breast cancer in terms of the number of men that are diagnosed and that die from it. In 2004 we developed our tagline “Changing the Face of Men’s Health” which describes the challenge of changing your appearance in 30 days, and it’s really no different than doing a run or a ride for charity. We had 450 guys and we raised $54,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia that first year. Along the way, we educated men on their health and aimed to get them engaged, no matter their age.

Growing numbers. In 2010, 450,000 men took part, and so we went from 450 guys originally to 450,000 in only 6 years. The 2010 global campaign raised $81mil USD, and Movember is currently the biggest funder of prostate cancer research in the world. In 2006 I took the campaign across to New Zealand, in 2007 we launched in the US, Canada and the UK, Ireland in 2008, and this year we launched in South Africa, Finland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Spreading the word. We did some research last year, and on average each guy talks to someone face-to-face about Movember and men’s health about 60 times during the month.

Quitting work. In 2006 I said, “I’m going to quit my job and see what happens.” For the first two years, we ran it on after hours and on weekends, sort of beg, borrow and stealing stuff to make it work. It was becoming so time consuming and resource intensive that we had to figure a way to fund it, or consequently close it down. Foster’s (Australian beer company) came aboard as our first sponsor and they gave us sufficient cash to run the campaign, so I quit my job working business development at Vodafone.

Movember at work (photo:Shannon O'Meara)

The Mo in America. The Prostate Cancer Foundation of the US is based here in Santa Monica and we also partner with Lance Armstrong’s foundation LIVESTRONG out of Austin.

Maintaining the good. We have about 45 full-time staff now year round and we are very conscious of our cost ratios. Last year we ran our global campaign at 8 cents in the dollar and Global Practice between 15-25. The beauty of the campaign is that it’s all web-based, so it’s very low cost.

Future Mos. Over the next five years, we could raise US$1billion, but we want to be known as the organization that effectively cures prostate cancer– we’re funding prostate cancer research and foundations in 10 countries. The biggest problem is that there is no collaboration, so we have created our “Movember Global Action Plan” where we’ve recruited six of the top scientific minds of the world, and we fund them to collaborate. No one is doing that in the cancer world, as everyone else is nationally focused. We believe that through collaboration, we’ll accelerate outcomes.

How? It takes passion, persistence, and patience. If you are not truly passionate about what you are doing, then it will fall over. The other key part of our success has been partnering with credible beneficiaries in each country and leveraging off that. This is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done in my life; it’s our own thing, it’s doing good, we have fun and I get to live here in California.

Life in America. It has taken three years to really find my feet and create a good network of people, and the Aussies that I have met in the US are all here having a go. The whole process of visas and bank accounts, etc, was the most humbling experience of my life; you effectively have to reset your entire adult life, and so all of the Australians that I meet over here are very humble and down to earth.

LA Tips. Venice and Santa Monica Pier or on Abbot Kinney where our offices are– it’s a great street. There’s a great art scene, check out the Getty, spend some time on the local shopping streets and go hiking for an amazing view.

Adam Garone and his Movember mission (photo: Shannon O'Meara)

By Shannon O’Meara

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