By Devin D. O’Leary
This is just a guess, but I’m pretty sure there are no instructions for use printed on the side of the homeopathic topical headache relief product HeadOn. After all, anyone who’s spent any time surfing the cheaper commercial hours of basic cable (especially daytime CNN) has run across the HeadOn commercial at least a hundred times in the last couple of months.
You know the one I’m talking about: It features a brunette in a red shirt standing in front of a green, Tron-like grid smearing what looks like a very large tube of ChapStick across her forehead while a very enthusiastic announcer shouts, “HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead! HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead! HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead!” That’s it for the commercial. Sometimes it’s even repeated two times in a row, giving you the product’s catchy slogan six times in under 30 seconds. Occasionally, it will be followed by a pitch for one of the company’s other useful products: “Freedom from hemorrhoids? FreedHem Hemorrhoid cream! Freedom from hemorrhoids? FreedHem Hemorrhoid cream! Freedom ...” Well, you get the idea.
The commercial is so cheap in its production values, the product so bizarre and the purpose so, well, elusive, that late-night channel flippers could be excused for thinking this is all some elaborate joke. It isn’t.
The commercial for HeadOn never actually says what the product does, although it can be inferred from the actions of the brunette that the item is intended to cure headaches. Since it is an herbal remedy, however, it is not regulated by the FDA, and is not actually required to do anything. According to HeadOn’s website (www.headon.com), the product’s active ingredients include White Bryony, Blue Flag, Potassium Bichromate/
According to several bulk chemical manufacturers, HeadOn’s main ingredient, Potassium Dichromate, is a carcinogenic corrosion inhibitor used to develop photographs. According to several herbal websites, White Bryony is a “violent purgative” and should not be used without medical supervision, while Blue Flag is useful in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis.
But it’s not HeadOn’s purported (or not-so-purported) pain-relieving capabilities that have made it such an odd cultural touchstone of the year 2006. It’s the fact that the annoying and repetitive commercial could actually be seen to induce headaches in viewers, therefore creating a demand for its product. Oddly enough, Dan Charron, vice president of sales and marketing, recently told the Los Angeles Times that nobody in his company’s advertising focus groups had told him that the ads were annoying. Hell, I’ve got a headache just thinking about it.
Still, I believe the manufacturers of HeadOn are onto something. Think of what this sort of blunt, instructional campaign could do for chewing gum. “Freedent: Stick directly in your mouth.” Or suppositories. “Fleet Brand ...” Well, maybe not.
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