HeadOn is the brand name of a topical product claimed to relieve headaches. It achieved widespread notoriety in 2006 as a result of a repetitive commercial, consisting only of the tagline "HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead," stated three times in succession. Originally sold as a homeopathic preparation, the brand was transferred to Sirvision, Inc. in 2008, who re-introduced the product with a new formulation.
HeadOn's notoriety came in part due to its advertisements on cable and daytime programming on broadcast television which consisted of using only the tagline "HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead," stated three times in succession, accompanied by a video of a model using the product without ever directly stating the product's purpose.
On September 18, 2006, a new advertisement debuted on US channels; the opening is the same as the original HeadOn, with the words "HeadOn, apply directly" occurring before the sound fizzles out while a person walks on and mocks the tagline, stating "HeadOn, I can't stand your commercial, but your product is amazing!", "HeadOn, I hate your commercial! But I love your product.", or "HeadOn, your commercial is so annoying, but you've got a great product!" As of June 2007, the advertisement has changed again -- this time to a chorus of people saying "Head on, apply directly to the forehead?", a single announcer repeating "apply directly to the forehead", and then the chorus doing the same thing. This newer ad also features a slow-motion version of the model using the product.
Manufacturer Miralus Healthcare decided not to include any factual claims about the product in the spots after the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau objected to the claim that HeadOn provided "fast, safe, effective" headache relief made in an earlier spot. A previous campaign included the phrase "Should I know about HeadOn?"
Miralus Healthcare used focus groups to try a number of potential commercials, with one focused solely on repetition; the focus groups recalled the ads much more than with any other method, although many people considered the ads annoying. Dan Charron, vice president of sales and marketing at Miralus, told the Los Angeles Times that nobody in the focus groups had told him that the ads were annoying.
The commercial led to a number of parodies appearing on Web sites such as YouTube, USA Today reports, including extended versions of the ad which loop the repetitive tagline for durations upwards of ten minutes, and it has since become an internet meme. The technophile magazine Make describes how to turn it into a ring tone. The commercial is parodied in the 2008 spoof film, Disaster Movie.
On September 26, 2008, ownership of the HeadOn brand and its manufacture were transferred to Sirvision, inc. of North America. Sirvision re-introduced HeadOn with a new formulation, claiming it now contains "a clinically proven active ingredient for topical headache relief." There were no peer reviewed studies showing that the original HeadOn formula worked and the scientific consensus is that homeopathic preparations do not help beyond the placebo effect. The new formulation has not yet been investigated.
Three related products are currently produced by former manufacturer of HeadOn Miralus Healthcare:
- ActivOn - described on the company's website as a topical analgesic for arthritis-like joint pains, in multiple formulations. Additionally, the product originally named FirstOn, a topical anti-itch product, is now called ActivOn Maximum Strength Anti-Itch.
- PreferOn - A topical product containing Vitamin E, claimed to improve the appearance of scars.
- RenewIn - A pill claimed to improve joint comfort, flexibility and mobility, in multiple formulations.
A homeopathic hemorrhoid cream, FREEdHem, was withdrawn from the market. Like HeadOn, FREEdHem featured repetition in its ads, which said "Freedom from hemorrhoids, FREEdHem hemorrhoid cream" or "FREEdHem, the only one-application hemorrhoidal cream" three times.
As of September 2008, there are two versions of HeadOn available in stores: "Extra Strength" and "Migraine". Chemical analysis of the Migraine formulation has shown that the product consists almost entirely of wax. The three "active ingredients" are iris versicolor 12× (a toxic flower), white bryony 12× (a type of toxic vine), and potassium dichromate 6× (a known carcinogen). The "×" notation indicates that the three chemicals have been diluted to 1 part per trillion, 1 part per trillion, and 1 part per million respectively. This amount of dilution is so great that the product has been described as a placebo; with skeptic James Randi calling it a "major medical swindle". The formula for the Extra Strength version of the product is the same as the Migraine except that it excludes the iris versicolor.
Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago and the inpatient headache unit at St. Joseph Hospital, was quoted as saying "I see nothing in this product that has any validity whatsoever." Consumer Reports states that no clinical-trial data involving HeadOn have been presented, and that "any apparent efficacy may be the result of the placebo effect."
Correspondence was published with a statement from HeadOn Customer Service that "It works through the nerves."
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