HeadOn is the brand name of a topical product formerly claimed to relieve headaches, produced by Miralus Healthcare. It is sold as a homeopathic remedy. The product became known for its television commercials which featured the phrase "HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead" stated three times; these ads have become an Internet meme.
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. 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. The ad was once again changed in 2008 to include testimonials of HeadOn users.
The company decided not to include any factual claims about the product in the spots after the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureaus 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?"
The company 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. Many people consider the ads annoying. Dan Charron, vice president of sales and marketing, told the Los Angeles Times that nobody in the focus groups had told him that the ads were annoying.
The commercial has led to a number of parodies now appearing on Web sites such as YouTube, USA Today reports, and it has since become an internet meme. The technophile magazine Make describes how to turn it into a ring tone.
Five other products are also currently produced by the manufacturers of HeadOn:
The commercials for these products generally follow HeadOn advertisements (save for FreedHem). Unlike the other products, RenewIn is not a topical medicine.
Chemical analysis has shown that the product consists almost entirely of wax. The two ingredients listed as "active", white bryony (a type of vine) and potassium dichromate (a known carcinogen), are diluted to 1 ppt and 1 ppm 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". Each 0.2-ounce stick contains a “12X” concentration of white bryony.
Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago and the inpatient headache unit at St. Joseph Hospital, has been 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." However, the package does list menthol as an inactive ingredient.
Correspondence has been published with a statement from HeadOn Customer Service that "It works through the nerves."
Miralus Healthcare claims that HeadOn is safe, so that "it can be used by anyone and as often as needed. There are no dosage restrictions or health risks associated with its use." There are three variants of HeadOn — Extra Strength Headache Pain Reliever, Extra Strength Sinus Headache Relief, and Migraine Pain Reliever. Their active ingredients (converted from the listed homeopathic dilution notation to standard percentages) are:
Extra Strength Headache Pain Reliever
- Potassium dichromate 8 × 10−8%
- White Bryony 4 × 10−14%
Extra Strength Sinus Headache Relief
- Potassium dichromate 5 × 10−8%
- White Bryony 4 × 10−14%
- Golden Seal Hydrastis 8 × 10−32%
Migraine Pain Reliever
- Potassium dichromate 3 × 10−8%
- White Bryony 4 × 10−14%
- Blue Flag Iris Versicolor 1 × 10−13%
- Stevenson, Seth (2006-07-24). "Head Case: the mesmerizing ad for HeadOn". Ad Report Card. Slate. Retrieved 2006-07-24. Check date values in:
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- Neil, Dan (2006-07-23). "Ad Nauseam". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-07-24. Check date values in:
- "Headache remedy becomes pop culture phenom". United Press International. 2006-07-31. Retrieved 2006-08-01. Check date values in:
- Unger, Brian (2006-07-10). "Taking an Annoying Pain Commercial Head On". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2006-07-24.
- "HeadOn Commercial". The Daily Headache. 2006-07-20. Retrieved 2006-07-24.
- Cooper, Gael (2006-08-24). "Best and Worst Commercials of the Year". msnbc. Retrieved 2006-09-21. Unknown parameter
- USATODAY.com - Headache commercial hits parody circuit, well, HeadOn
- Doonesbury@Slate - Daily Dose
- "Analysis of Head On". James Randi's Swift. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- "ConsumerReports.org - HeadOn: Headache drug lacks clinical data". Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "Head Rub". The Washington Post. 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2006-09-29. Check date values in:
- "Science at its best". James Randi's Swift. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
- "Safety". headon.com. Retrieved 2007-05-05.
- "HeadOn Extra Strength Headache Pain Reliever". Walgreens.com. Retrieved 2006-11-02.
- "HeadOn Sinus Headache Relief, Extra Strength". Walgreens.com. Retrieved 2006-11-02.
- "HeadOn Migraine Pain Reliever". Walgreens.com. Retrieved 2006-11-02.