More men likely to seek help after seeing ABC’s ‘Man Up’ series, research finds

A study looking at how Australian men deal with depression has found that men who had watched ABC series Man Up were more likely to seek help when depressed than men who had not seen the series.

Professor Jane Pirkis reporting the study’s findings at Mumbrella’s MSIX conference

Results revealed 84% of men in the first group believed the ABC documentary series had “triggered a change for the better.”

The study was a joint project between ABC, Heiress Films and the University of Melbourne and involved showing ABC series Man Up to one group of 354 men while the second control group was shown another documentary without masculine themes.

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Marketing Science Ideas Xchange, Professor Jane Pirkis, director of the Centre for Mental Health at University of Melbourne said the ABC series aimed to discuss the intersection of mental health with masculinity.

Man Up really worked. 34% of the men who watched Man Up a month after watching told us they had an increased likelihood of seeking help, particularly from a telephone help line,” Pirkis said.

“In each case there was virtually no change for the group that had seen the control documentary,” she added. The three-part documentary Man Up was funded by Movember.

MSIX Man Up Session

The session (L-R): Jennifer Cummins (Heiress Films); Professor Jane Pirkis (University of Melbourne); Jackie Turnure

Pirkis is also working on the longitudinal ‘Ten to Men’ study of 16,000 men and boys across Australia. She wanted to see whether a change of perception of masculinity would shift or improve men’s mental health.

“Those who watched the Man Up documentary showed a 3% reduction in their score on a scale we used in our ten to men study to looked at conformity to masculine norms. They became less weathered to traditional masculine norms,” she said.

The session, also led by Jennifer Cummins, Principal at Heiress Films and Jackie Turnure, digital strategist and producer, revealed how marketing and technology could create behavioural change for the men through a case study of the ‘Man Up’ documentary trial.

Commenting on the results, Pirkis said of the 170 who watched the documentary, more than 85% of men reported they had inherently understood the pressures placed on men to conform to ‘man code.’

The study also claimed 95% of men had a better understanding of male suicide, and there was an 8% increase in the likelihood of recommending help to a friend.

Speaking about the documentary itself, Pirkis said she partnered with Cummins to measure the impact of the documentary.

“We wondered about not only would it be possible to do something with television that a traditional kind of approach wouldn’t be able to do, but could we measure that change? We were really keen to do a randomised controlled trial on this documentary to see if it really made a difference,” she said.

Turnure said of the project: “Man Up was always designed to be much more than a TV show, we wanted to kickstart a national conversation and broaden our audience well beyond the ABC audience.”

“We knew the best place to do this was online because that’s where the conversations are already happening,” she said.

Man Up website

Pirkis attributed a part of the success to the program’s host, Triple M presenter Gus Worland: “What we needed was an accessible, relatable bloke to lead us on the journey through the hairy world of masculinity and Gus Worland entered our lives, Triple M Sydney radio presenter and loveable boofhead. He’s a really great guy and exactly what we were looking for.”

The documentary’s research project went beyond the series itself, with content across Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Youtube and Twitter as well the program’s website.

The website included infographics, interviews and additional content that communicated themes like ‘social perfectionism’ and ‘mateship’ from the three-part documentary. The site also included a survey, which was used as a way to build more research.

Turnure said of the social engagement results: “We were starting from scratch and its really hard to build a community from zero. But in 12 weeks on Facebook we built our community from 0 to 21,000 and even with that relatively small number we reached 10m people.”

“On Twitter we grew to 1,473, we had an average reach for 200,000 a week and our total was 2.4m over the campaign,” she added.

Other top-line figures of the study included 1,200 participants and the Man Up campaign ad, which has received 35m views to date.

“The campaign ad is really a massive success story in terms of an individual asset and how far it can travel. On our Facebook page alone with only spending $100 on a promoted post we received 1.7m views,” Turnure said.

However, the biggest win for the trio and Worland was they managed to save lives.

“Gus said if we can save one life with this series then I’m in and it’ll all be worth it,” Turnure said.

“We’ve had three texts with three men who have interrupted their suicide plans after watching the show.”


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