While strong and silent are often valorised in popular culture as desirable characteristics for men to possess, the latter of these is literally causing the deaths of thousands of Kiwi males every year.
The fact that New Zealand's men are three times less likely to visit the doctor than women—and consequently less likely to discuss their ailments—results in 3,000 preventable deaths per year, with most being caused by smoking, obesity and diabetes, alcohol and driving, mental health and suicide, cancers, and heart attacks.
So, in an effort to encourage Kiwi men to open up, Men's Health Week (which runs from 9 to 15 June) was launched late last night via a cheeky marketing campaign by M&C Saatchi.
The 'Speak Up' campaign will see a series of speech bubbles being attached to existing advertisements in the Auckland CBD, Karangahape Road, Newmarket, Grey Lynn and Ponsonby—all areas that have been pinpointed as areas of concern.
“Essentially wherever there is a male featured on these [outdoor advertising] sites, we’ve positioned a speech bubble next to his mouth, giving the appearance that he is talking. We basically combed the streets looking for outdoor posters, mannequins, billboards, roadwork signs and movie posters – basically if it had a man involved it was hijack-able media as far as we were concerned,” said Dave King, the ex-joint chief executive and executive creative director of M&C Saatchi, who worked on the project.
Much like in the world of illegal graffiti, tagging someone else's work is frowned upon. So, in order to avoid any turf wars, M&C Saatchi had to get permission from the billboard advertisers to add the speech bubbles.
This process was made easier because Men's Health week chair Phil Clemas also happens to be the general manager of APN Outdoor in New Zealand. Clemas, who took the leadership position at the organisation last year, says that while the campaign is slightly mischievous, he is happy to see the issue addressed in such a creative way.
“We are notorious for not discussing problems that are going on with our health, mainly out of fear. The statistics regarding the health of men are getting worse and now we’re in a situation where every three hours a New Zealand male dies of preventable causes. It’s time to start talking about our health,” he says.
In talking about the reasons underpinning the execution, King says that he felt that a humorous campaign would resonate more strongly with those passing by.
“No one wants to be lectured to so we wanted to create a campaign that would disrupt their thinking, make them laugh, hopefully they might take a photo of it and post it on social media or show a mate in the office or over a beer. Of course the underlying message is to encourage men to speak to a mate if they have a health problem and go see a doctor for a check-up.”
In late April, M&C Saatchi rebranded the not-for-profit organisation to focus on encouraging men to talk about their physical ailments, and this campaign effectively brings creative life to the new branding.
“After working closely with Phil and the other trustees, we quickly came to the realisation that men generally need help and guidance to ‘overcome’ their fear or reluctance to be more informed and interested about their health” says M&C Saatchi’s joint chief executive Tony Burt. “Talking a little more about matters around family, aspirations, interests, health, might just help more men realise the importance of getting healthy and staying healthy”.
To create this message, M&C Saatchi rebranded much of the imagery on the revamped Men's Health website to feature loved ones sharing conversations.
The official Men's Health Week kicked off this morning with a breakfast at Eden Park, which included a speeches by New Zealander of the Year Lance O’Sullivan and motivational guru Ed Timings.
The emcee for the event was ZM's drive host Paul Flynn, who having lost 35 kilograms in the past 18 months, served as a fitting advocate for men's health.
Men’s Health Week is also supported with sponsorship from The Radio Network, and a complementary radio campaign will air throughout the week on Newstalk ZB, Radio Sport and Hauraki.
In addition to this, the organisers are also encouraging Kiwis to get behind the cause by tweeting under the #MenStartTalking hashtag.