Monday, July 13, 2009


I had lunch with one of my old college roommates last week. We went to Shaw's Oyster Bar (formerly the Blue Crab Lounge) and both ordered lobster rolls and fries. When the food came, she picked up the Heinz bottle, turned it upside down, and gave it a series of hi-karate chops just above the neck of the bottle. They were quick, maniacal whacks, and I was just glad she didn't accompany the display with energetic martial arts vocalizations. I think you know the kind I'm talking about.

That's when I decided whoever came up with the "Anticipation" spot for Heinz ketchup is a genius of the highest order, and should arguably be president of the country, if not the world. Not only did that campaign make waiting for something preferable to immediate gratification, it also established a long term mindset about the product. Forty years later, we can get the ketchup immediately thanks to plastic squeeze bottles. But we still opt for glass. We still choose to wait. Companies have erotic dreams about marketing stories like that.

Maybe it has something to do with developing our own ways to get the ketchup out faster. Maybe my karate-chopping friend is proud of her own quirky method, and has worked on it for years: hitting the bottle in just the right place, with just the right number of whacks. Maybe she practices at home, after the kids leave for school, utilizing Monica Seles-like grunts to get the most power out of her chops.

Another college friend of mine is a bottom slapper (as far as the Heinz ketchup bottle is concerned). I know this because he was once at a breakfast place in Ann Arbor where the tables sit very close together. He was holding his bottle upside down at an almost 90 degree angle, slapping the bottom, when the ketchup spurted out with such velocity that it traveled across the table and landed on the blond head of the woman at the next table. I don't know what happened next, but I'm pretty sure he laughed inappropriately, which probably made the situation even more awkward than it already was. I don't think the police were called, as was widely rumored.

I've seen people stick knives into the open bottle, which works pretty well. I've also seen people roll the upended bottle between their palms. How this is an effective strategy, I just don't know. I turn the bottle upside down and shake it, sometimes for a good 30 - 45 seconds before the ketchup dribbles out. But I don't mind. It's my Heinz ritual and I've been working on it for years.

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