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.
There are no peer reviewed studies showing that HeadOn works and the scientific consensus is that homeopathic remedies do not help beyond the placebo effect.
HeadOn is manufactured in Chicago, Illinois, United States, while Miralus Healthcare has offices in Canada and Florida.
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
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. Later in 2008, the commercial was changed back to its original thrice-repeating form, but this time a warning was added at the beginning of the commercial that says "WARNING: The following commercial contains scenes of a repetitive nature. Viewer discretion is advised."
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.
- A Doonesbury comic strip published on December 23, 2007 features two characters discussing the commercial.
- The direct-to-DVD Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score, advertises their product "Torgo's Executive Powder" in a similar manner as HeadOn, but with the line "Apply directly to the buttocks." When shown on television, one of the opening quotes is "Apply directly to the foreclaw".
- The parody film Disaster Movie includes a spoof of HeadOn commercials.
- A preview for a movie for Billy and Mandy repeats its tile multiple times with a similar background.
Five other products are also currently produced by the manufacturers of HeadOn:
- ActivOn - described on the company's website as being a topical analgesic for arthritis-like joint pains.
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."
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 %
- White Bryony %
Extra Strength Sinus Headache Relief
Migraine Pain Reliever