Taking an Annoying Pain Commercial Head On

Humorist Brian Unger has been watching too much bad news on television lately — and that includes an aggravating and perplexing commercial for a pain relief product that has recently begun running on cable television channels. Um, where do you apply that again?

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Our humorist, Brian Unger, has been watching too much bad news on TV, and too many painful commercials. But, he thinks he may have found some relief. Here's Brian with The Unger Report.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

(Soundbite of ominous music)

UNGER: Global terror, global warming, and global nuclear proliferation. These, the catalysts of civilization's end, the stories promising doom, that dominate our airwaves. Insoluble and overwhelming, it's enough to give a person a headache. It might explain why viewers of cable news are offered this:

Unidentified Woman #1: HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: Over and over and over again.

Unidentified Woman #1: Apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: HeadOn, a product advertisement that makes no claim, promises no benefit. It simply tells you where to put it.

Unidentified Woman #1: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn.

UNGER: If all the dreadful news on TV isn't enough to make your head explode, surely this commercial will. Here it is uninterrupted, in its entirety.

Unidentified Woman #1: HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Available at Walgreen's.

(Soundbite of ominous music)

UNGER: In this commercial, a woman, against a monochromatic background, rubs what looks like a glue stick on her forehead - back and forth, while the HeadOn mantra is repeated like a chant, hypnotizing us with the directions, not its cure. Maybe the makers of HeadOn assume you've already purchased the product, but just can't figure out where in the heck to put it.

Unidentified Woman #1: Apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: Of course. We'd almost forgotten. We rub it directly on our foreheads. I almost rubbed it under my arm.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: The Unger Report's pharmaceutical research team, can reveal this about HeadOn. It is allegedly, a homeopathic remedy for migraines. And thankfully for users, it's invisible and non-greasy, so when you paint your face with it, friends won't notice a giant oil slick on your forehead.

Among HeadOn's active ingredient, Blue Flag, also known as Iris Versicolor pain reliever. You can see this analgesic growing in Montclair, New Jersey, at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, since it is an actual iris, a blue one. Please don't rub your forehead on the irises,it scares the children.

In trying to solve the riddle of the headache-inducing commercial HeadOn, discussion groups are popping up online. One poster writes, These are by far and away, the most enigmatic, non-informative commercials I have ever heard. Of course, I'm taking the time to write about their product, whatever it is, so I guess the ads are effective on that level. Still, I don't know what it is, so I have no idea if I even need it.

Herein lies the genius of HeadOn, a product that promises nothing, builds no expectations, disappoints no one. It's the Hillary Clinton of over-the-counter meds.

(Soundbite of ominous music)

UNGER: But dare we ask, if one applies HeadOn directly to the forehead, what about an achy knee?

Unidentified Woman #2: Introducing ActiveOn. Arthritis pain? ActiveOn. Apply directly where it hurts.

UNGER: And that is today's Unger Report. Applied directly to your ears. I'm Brian Unger.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: You can listen to more of Brian Unger, along with everything else we've ever broadcast on this show, by visiting our website, npr.org. And while you're there, check out everything we have available now, via Podcast. Just click on the NPR Podcast link, on the left side of the screen.

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