BUSINESS

APPLY TO THE HEAD

HeadOn pain reliever doesn’t even claim to work. It doesn’t have to.

JOHN INTINI August 14 2006
BUSINESS

APPLY TO THE HEAD

HeadOn pain reliever doesn’t even claim to work. It doesn’t have to.

JOHN INTINI August 14 2006

APPLY TO THE HEAD

HeadOn pain reliever doesn’t even claim to work. It doesn’t have to.

BUSINESS

JOHN INTINI

In the 15-second TV spot for HeadOn, a thirtysomething woman with a vacant look rubs her forehead with what appears to be a giant Chap Stick while a creepy voice-over repeats, “HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead,” three times. No testimonials. No claims of effectiveness. And you have to go to the company’s website to find out that HeadOn is a roll-on pain reliever. And that, according to Dan Charron, VP of sales and marketing with Miralus Healthcare, the makers of HeadOn, is all part of the plan. “It’s about the mystery—getting people to talk about it, people to remember it and people to be curious about it,” he says. “You can’t have 1,000 messages. We have one that makes us different: we’re applied directly to the forehead. Others are swallowed.”

Previous ads had said that HeadOn provides “fast, safe, effective” pain relief. But in March, the Better Business Bureau recommended the company drop that claim from the ad because of a lack of information on how it works. In june, Miralus unveiled the current campaign, though the company says the new ads were in the works for eight months, and changes were unrelated to the BBB recommendation. The website claims that HeadOn “can be used by anyone and as often as needed” without any health risks. Just keep rolling it on until your headache goes away.

Regardless of whether HeadOn works, the bizarre anti-ad certainly has. Sales of the US$5 tubes rose 50 per cent between April and July. “Tylenol and Advil have a lot larger ad budgets and a lot more brand recognition,” says Charron. “We have to keep people on the edge of their seat.” (HeadOn will be available in Canada for the first time next month.)

Charron expected the ad to be memorable, but never anticipated the US$30 million campaign would become a pop culture phenomenon—and widely parodied on the Internet. While some have turned it into a ring tone, others have created online spoofs. In one, the ad’s hypnotic tag line is combined with Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup-famous head-butt. “There are rumours that we’re hiring Zidane as a spokesperson,” says Charron. “It’s funny, but it isn’t true.” M