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Mr President Lent a Helping Hand to Macmillan’s Brave the Shave Campaign


Dan Ball and Joe Stone, Mr President’s creatives, tell LBB how they helped Macmillan reach new audiences for Live Week, and the challenge of capturing real people taking on the challenge in one shot

Mr President Lent a Helping Hand to Macmillan’s Brave the Shave Campaign

Macmillan Cancer Support provides physical, emotional and financial support to people living with cancer. The 'Brave the Shave' initiative has been running since 2015 to raise vital funds - helping the charity deliver their objective to do whatever it takes for people living with cancer. This year, they partnered with Mr President, a creative agency, to reach new, digital-savvy audiences and get even more people participating and donating. 

Dan Ball and Joe Stone, creatives, were behind the work Mr P did for Macmillan, and the ones who had the honour and trepidation of overseeing real people shaving their hair in front of the camera. With the help of directing duo, Amit and Naroop, the team set up two-way mirrors that allowed them to film people and their authentic reactions in the process of braving the shave. Dan and Joe originally planned to use a combination of voiceover and music to go along with the footage, but the raw material was so impactful that they decided to let it speak for itself. Together, all the ads and the activity around them were geared towards driving as many sign-ups as possible with a media plan devised to achieve just that.

Dan and Joe spoke to LBB about partnering with Macmillan on this campaign, and discussed why unedited emotions are sometimes more powerful than anything someone can write. 

LBB> What was the brief from Macmillan for ‘Brave the Shave’ 2022 and how did you initially approach it? Who typically are the audience for this campaign and were there any new targets this year?

Dan & Joe> The brief was to reinvigorate the comms approach for ‘Brave the Shave’ - with the aim of inspiring a previously untapped, younger audience to take part. We wanted to attract people fluent in capturing, sharing and building up a buzz around their fundraising online, whilst maintaining the current fundraising audience who have done a fantastic job over the years in raising vital funds for people living with cancer. 

LBB> Has Mr President worked with Macmillan before? Can you tell us more about your relationship with the charity?

Dan & Joe> This is our first campaign for Macmillan Cancer Support since being appointed at the start of the year. We are particularly passionate about the relationship as our agency was founded on an aspiration to use our creativity to do a bit of good in the world. 

LBB> What insight led to the decision to create a ‘Live Week’ for ‘Brave the Shave’ this year?

Dan & Joe> Younger audiences are attracted to a big challenge in order to have a big impact for the causes that they care about. So our new approach is all about supercharging fundraisers’ efforts by ‘bigging up’ their moment. Whilst Live Week is not the only week that people can take part in, this crescendo moment creates a sense of event and gives fundraisers a definitive date to aim for, build up anticipation and to feel that sense of collective spirit by joining many others doing the same thing. With everyone filming and sharing their big moment at the same time, there’s an opportunity for us to help give the shaves more exposure to raise even more funds for Macmillan’s vital services.

An equally important goal of ‘bigging up the ask’ was to ensure that the fundraiser is perceived positively by people living with cancer. We hope that the shift in emphasising the gravitas of the act will create solidarity and showcase people’s amazing fundraising efforts to help Macmillan continue to do all it can to support those who desperately need it.

LBB> What effect do you expect to achieve that will build on what Macmillan have previously done with ‘Brave the Shave’?

Dan & Joe> Given that the purpose of all of this is to fundraise as much as possible for Macmillan Cancer Support, we certainly hope that we’ll have an exponential impact on the number of people who register to Brave the Shave, the percentage that follow through to doing it and then the amount of money that they are able to raise. Live Week created a sense of urgency - a ‘now or never’ mentality - so we’re looking forward to seeing the short-term results. Additionally, we hope that this year there will be increased long-term awareness of such a brilliant fundraiser (especially with younger people) - inspiring people to take part throughout the rest of the year. 

LBB> What happened during Live Week? 

Dan & Joe> This was a week that people have counted down to, told all their friends and family about, received donations for - and with that came a massive range of emotions: nervousness, excitement, pride, joy and anticipation. We were there with them: joining live streams, watching footage, donating to them, seeing their face as that first strip of hair is shaved. 

Capital Xtra presenters, Yasser and Remel, took to the streets to encourage people to Brave the Shave and the week culminated in a live on-air shave on the Heart Breakfast Show. Roni, who cared for her mum until she sadly passed away earlier this year, shaved her long, multi-coloured hair. It was incredible, emotional and inspiring. 

LBB> There are lots of different ways people can raise money for charity. Shaving your head isn’t always people’s first choice - how do you encourage people to see how this sort of activity could have a bigger impact for the charity?

Dan & Joe> For many of us, hair is a massive part of our physical expression, so shaving it off and changing your appearance for a long time highlights the enormity of the act and shows how far people are willing to go to help those living with cancer. 

It has never been more important to fundraise for Macmillan as things are tougher than before the pandemic for so many and they are doing everything that they can to help. More people have cancer in the UK than ever before and millions are struggling with the ongoing disruption to care and treatment, the rising cost of living, and everything else a diagnosis brings. 

The charity relies on donations for 98% of its income and they are incredibly grateful for the dedication of its supporters. Without this, they could not continue to do whatever it takes to  ensure people living with cancer get the care they need. 

LBB> Tell us about creating the adverts to promote ‘Brave the Shave’. Supposedly, you only get one go at getting these right! What were the production challenges and how did you plan around them?

Dan & Joe> Yes, the one take was pretty nerve-wracking! We normally have the comfort of retakes, re-edits or ‘sorting it in post’, so this was a massive step out of our comfort zone. There was no second attempt, once someone has turned those clippers and started shaving, there is no going back. Luckily, we had some great Brave the Shavers on board who were great in front of the camera, as well as a great directing duo, Amit and Naroop, behind the camera. 

We had a few people on standby, just in case anyone pulled out, we had a very rough idea of what we wanted, we had one location where each of our shavers could get set up and prepared, but in reality, there is only so much you can plan!

Ultimately, we just wanted to let the cameras roll to capture everything and allow our shavers to feel as comfortable as possible in order to get their real emotions and reactions to shaving their hair off. 

LBB> Creatively, how did you go about framing the subjects and the moment they brave it? What did you want to capture in their performance?

Dan & Joe> First and foremost, we wanted to capture real, authentic reactions. This was their big moment, and we were just there to capture it. This meant being as unobtrusive as possible. To achieve this, a version of a two-way mirror using an autocue was created that allowed us to film them head-on whilst they looked at themselves in the mirror, effectively ‘hiding’ the camera. We’d not heard of this technique being used before and it helped us capture the purest, rawest emotions as people raised the shaver to their head. The looks in people’s eyes couldn’t be faked - it was just about capturing it in the best way possible, and reflecting Macmillan’s promise to tell real stories - from fundraising motivations to the reality of living with cancer.

We knew that we’d capture some fantastic emotions, but I think what we got back caught us off guard with just how powerful they were. A good example of this was the use of a voice-over, which we had initially planned to use, as well as potentially some music to go along with the footage. However, the raw footage we got back was so impactful in its purest form, any tests we did using voice-overs or music detracted, instead of added, to the footage. Their emotions spoke for themselves, and were more powerful than anything we could have written. 

LBB> Where did the ads run and why did you choose those platforms?

Dan & Joe> Encouraging sign-ups has always been the primary objective of the campaign, so it was only natural that the media plan lent towards online. This creates a smooth and easy consumer journey from awareness to response. It’s also helped us model the behaviour that we’re trying to encourage from fundraisers: sharing their shaves as widely as possible via live streaming. 

In addition to our online presence, OOH adds a layer of visibility that gives the fundraiser the fame and credibility it deserves.

LBB> Did anyone from Mr President brave the shave this year?

Dan & Joe> Nick, our CSO, Braved The Shave in our office in 2021, which was an amazing experience to witness and be part of. You could see the full range of emotions he experienced, from excitement, to fear, to realisation, to acceptance, it really was a rollercoaster, and got us really excited and inspired to get to work on the campaign!

[Sign up or donate to Brave the Shave this year and raise vital funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.]

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Mr. President, Mon, 05 Sep 2022 10:02:23 GMT