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Father-Son Mustaches to Sprout in 'Movember'

The grow-a-'stache charity raises multigenerational awareness and funds for prostate cancer

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Fathers, if your normally clean-shaven kid comes home this Thanksgiving sporting a Tom Selleck, don’t be alarmed. It’s for a good cause.

Nov. 1 kicks off Movember, the monthlong charity drive that encourages men to grow mustaches to raise money and awareness for men’s health, especially prostate cancer.

Working with Melbourne, Australia-based creative shop Urchin, Movember is adopting a new motif this year, “Movember & Sons.” The goal is to ratchet up cross-generational discussion about the campaign’s causes because “Mo Bros,” as the campaign’s fundraiser participants are called, run the gamut from college kids to “40- to 50-year-old men,” said Movember co-founder and CEO Adam Garone, and organizers want them to have the “knowledge and the confidence and the reason” to have a discussion with their dad about their health.

Organizers also try to boost enthusiasm by staging low-stakes competitions in specific industries. This year’s contest is an “Agency Challenge” aimed at getting marketing shops involved. The prize: “Bragging rights,” laughed Garone, and “a title fighting belt or something like that.”

In other words, grab your beard trimmers, admen, and maybe you can hang that trophy above your Cannes hardware.

Launched in 2003 among 30 guys in Australia, Movember has since grown into a global fundraising blitz, netting $299 million so far. In 2011 alone, an estimated 855,000 grassroots activists hauled in $126 million. And if the momentum holds, 2012’s push should draw from some 1.1 million registrants—translating to roughly $150 million in donations, according to Garone.

While a new creative theme each fall helps keep the effort fresh (Urchin has aided Movember since its launch, and PR giant Edelman also helps with publicity), the core elements of the campaign are consistent from year to year.

How does it work? Mo Bros set up profile pages on Movember’s website or through its mobile app. Starting shorn, they can upload pictures as their ’staches progress over the course of the month while building a team of donors—and keep that minisocial network updated via email, Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign also encourages “Mo Sistas” to raise funds—but the effort to raise awareness focuses on XY-types: Each hirsute face serves as a billboard for the campaign, and one patch of upper-lip hair leads to an average of 2,413 conversations—including face-to-face discussions and social media communications—according to a study of Movember participants conducted by Canadian market research firm IMI.

It’s not just idle chatter. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they scheduled a general health checkup because of Movember, said Garone. “That’s a huge statistic,” he noted. “One of the things we’re really pushing here is getting men [to] understand that a lot of the health risks they face are preventable by diet and lifestyle and physical activity and through preventative screening.”