McCann Came Up With a Haircut That Fights Cancer in This Remarkable Campaign

Why thousands of women are donating half of their hair

Depression can run high among women who lose their hair during cancer treatment. As one survivor says in the video below, "All of a sudden, you're not you. You have a label: cancer." 

For most Romanians, wigs are prohibitively expensive, and there are no government subsidies to help. So, cancer charity Fundația Renașterea and McCann Bucharest developed a novel campaign to convince women to cut their hair and donate it for wig production.

"There was no awareness of hair donation, and Romanian women were reluctant to give up their long locks," Ioana Zamfir, copywriter at McCann Bucharest, tells AdFreak. "What they did want, however, was to be part of a trend. So, we went another way: We didn't ask them to donate their hair; we asked them to be in fashion." 

Working with stylist Sorin Stratulat, the McCann team came up with a distinctive hairstyle—the asymmetrical "Brave Cut," long on one side and short on the other. The new 'do was offered free of charge in various salons. The hair collected from each "Brave Cut" was used to make wigs donated to cancer patients. 

"It's a reinterpretation of the pink ribbon. It's something that became very recognizable, kind of like a trademark of solidarity," Zamfir says. 

 With no budget to spend on media, the project relied on PR, press coverage and the power of influencers to spread the word. "It had a snowball effect," Zamfir says. "We started with just one very popular TV presenter getting it live. Then more women wanted it. Then more hair salons joined. Then more celebrities followed. Then even politicians got it. One thing led to another." 

Since the campaign launched in November, more than 2,400 women have donated enough hair to create 650 wigs.

Ultimately, the impact of "Brave Cut" is multi-layered. It helps women stave off the intense despondency—that loss of "self"—that can result from drastic changes in one's appearance due to illness, while raising national awareness for the cause. Also, the campaign promotes solidarity and strength among Romanian women, uniting them in a mission of hope and mutual support.

"It gave women this feeling that however different, if they did this one thing, they can make a difference," Zamfir says. "And they were recognizing each other on the street by their haircut."


Agency: McCann Bucharest

Global Executive Creative Director: Adrian Botan

Executive Creative Director: Catalin Dobre

Copywriter: Ioana Zamfir

Art Director: Alin Sirbu

Client Service Director: Dana Hogea

Account Director: Carmen Marin

Account Executive: Ana Fara

Creative Excellence Manager, Europe: Carmen Bistrian

Head of Strategy: Diana Ceausu

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.