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Truth: men can suffer from certain treatable illnesses as they get older. Another truth: men don’t like to talk about their health, or go to the doctors, especially if their illness relates to their libido. Research had demonstrated that Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TDS) was an under-diagnosed and under-treated illness, despite it affecting some 700,000 men aged over 45 in the UK. A lack of awareness and embarrassment were identified as the main factors that delayed seeking advice, with two-thirds of men diagnosed having lived with symptoms for up to 2 years before seeking help. Of those who took part in the study, half believed it to be not serious, a part of life and getting older. Very few understood it could be treated, or its links to more serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

So Besins Healthcare commissioned Bad Madam to create a film to raise awareness of this sensitive subject, and ultimately encourage men over 45 to visit the doctors. However, given the struggle most men have in talking about such issues, we were challenged to find an innovative way to get them to listen…

We proved comedy could be this route. An entertainment-led approach, engaging them consciously, but allowing them to consume information around symptoms and signs privately; without embarrassing them into acting, but not allowing them to ignore the commonalities to their lives either.

Let’s be honest though, low testosterone, erectile dysfunction and depression aren’t generally the stuff great comedy is made of! So with Bad Madam collaborator Pete Sinclair, of ‘Spitting Image’ and ‘Have I Got News For You’ fame, we wrote ‘Getting Old’ – a comedy short about two men, and an uncomfortable chat. The film watches as Russell, a pretentious middle-aged playboy, meets up with his friend-from-old David, a quiet, balanced, unassuming landscape gardener. The conversation flows through the extremes of how their lives have diverged since university, the banter and ribbing expected from old friends and drifts gradually into the comedy of their ageing years. Through the pair we see two stereotypes of man, and as the narrative raises the prospect of a common, but sensitive male illness, we see David trying to normalise the touchy subject, as his friend tries to hide from it, distracting himself by attempting (unsuccessfully) to hit on Katya, the provocative Russian barmaid.

‘Getting Old’ became the centre-point to a UK campaign to raise awareness of the issue of low testosterone in men, driving traffic to the campaign website and engaging viewers, healthcare professionals and media alike. It delivered messaging around symptoms and treatments, but wrapped them within a more entertaining story to allow the audience (and Russell) to process the information in their own private way. In research following its release, it increased ‘prompted awareness’ of the issue amongst target 45-64 year old men in the UK by 32%, and ‘intention’ (to investigate) by 46%.