This Commercial Sucks. This Commercial Sucks. This Commercial Sucks.

Every so often, a commercial comes along that is the absolute antithesis of everything that creative people aspire to, but gets legendary amounts of attention. The ubiquitous HeadOn ad is just such a spot. Slate takes a closer look.

According to Dan Charron, VP of sales and marketing for HeadOn, the company used focus groups to test all sorts of marketing tacks. One experimental approach maxed out on repetition, and the results were incredible. The focus groups’ recollection of the ad, and of the product, was light-years better than with any other method. Which, of course, seems completely obvious—how can we forget something when it’s being jammed into our brains? And yet I’ve never seen an ad embrace this insight with so much gusto.
I suspect most advertisers avoid the broken-record technique out of fear that it will annoy people. Which it does. But so what? Maybe a small percentage of us will snootily refrain from buying HeadOn—as an act of protest against an ad we find irritating—but this is a small price to pay when millions of other folks are now familiar with HeadOn, curious about it, and unlikely ever to forget its name. The repetition method serves no purpose for a well-established brand (“Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus. Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus”), but for a new product fighting to get noticed, it makes a lot of sense.

If you’re not a headache sufferer, watch the commercial a few times and you will be.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. There was a Blimpie’s ad a few years back that applied the same technique, but with a little more humor. The founder of the company, while talking about Blimpie’s subs, kept mentioning that his marketing people said he needed to mention the name of the company three times so customers would recall, so he worked it in.
    I see this HeadOn ad everyday on CNN. I suppose the prospect of World War, combined with this ad, might motivate me to give this product a shot.

  2. The thing that stricks me about this ad every time I see it, is that I have no idea what the product does. I know what it’s called, and where to apply it — but not why I would apply it. Honestly, I thought it must be some kind of botox.

  3. Alexander Manuel says:

    I can not stand this commercial and change the channel the second I hear it begin. If I were a station owner I would NEVER let this commercial go on since the ratings will go down at least 3 points from people like me who flee.