Tag Archives: advertising

Ketchup Konfidential (or Catsup Confidential)

I won this contest a few years ago. I opened up a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. It wasn’t a squeeze bottle, it was like a real glass ketchup bottle. And usually, and I know this from working at restaurants for so long, but restaurant owners won’t buy only bottled ketchup. They’ll buy like just a few bottles, and then they’ll fill them up from these gigantic bulk cans when they get low. Or, if it’s in the middle of the shift, or if your boss isn’t looking and you don’t feel like going to the supply room and getting a big can, finding the giant can opener, trying to get all of that ketchup out of that big can and into that little bottle, without making a huge mess, (almost impossible) you can maybe just take two half empty bottles and pour one into the other to make one full bottle. That’s called marrying the ketchups. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ketchups that get married, but you know, I’m just illustrating ketchup, just for the sake of a good description.

Anyway, I opened this glass bottle of ketchup and I heard a pop. Just by what I’ve already written down you should realize how rare that is, to have a brand new bottle of ketchup, like fresh out of the factory, sealed. That almost never happens. Like I said, they use these bottles forever. Well, almost forever. Eventually they look terrible, the labels start to peel off, little bits of ketchup crust that accumulate after daily use, they grow into this thick substance, sharp even, and when you open the bottle some of the ketchup crust crumbles off, some of it getting in the bottle, with the fresh, or fresher ketchup, some of it maybe falling into your food. They’ve got to be tossed after a while, eventually, you just have to suck it up, order another case of bottles, and move on.

But restaurant owners, they’re in it to make money, and so sometimes they’ll hold onto those bottles, like way too long. What winds up happening, under worst-case circumstances, there’ll be this thin layer of ketchup that never gets poured out, it’s always just hanging out at the bottom, every time somebody marries a ketchup they happen to marry it into this one. And ketchup’s pretty vinegary, so it’ll stay good for a while, weeks, months even. But eventually, it’s a food, it’s perishable, it’s going to perish. Stuff happens, things start to bubble. Maybe this one ketchup will be in circulation just one day too long. And the top is on really tight. So all of those chemical reactions, the really old ketchup starting to ferment, whatever, I’m not claiming to understand the science, all I know is, you open that ketchup …

Like one time I was out to eat with some of my friends. It was at a bar and it was a trivia night so everybody was drinking and playing trivia and we ordered food. But the food was taking forever, like an hour, an hour and a half. Everybody’s OK, because there’s other stuff going on, but my one friend, he’s starving. He hasn’t eaten anything all day. So he’s getting pissed off. I’d be pissed off too. Finally the food comes. Oh yeah, did I mention that he was wearing all white? White everything, hat, jacket, pants, white, white, white.

Do I even have to tell you what happened? Unlucky day for an unlucky guy unfortunately decked out all in white. He got that bad bottle of ketchup. Ask him what happens when you let ketchup sit around for too long.

I’m getting distracted. The contest. So I open this bottle, it makes the pop because it’s so fresh, and then I go to pour. But nothing’s coming out. I try doing what my boss in high school always told his customers to do, to “Hit the fifty-seven! Hit the fifty-seven!” I mean, when you say it like that it might be a little confusing, but every Heinz glass bottle has the number fifty-seven carved in the side of the bottle. And I’m telling you, it works. You tilt the bottle, you hit the fifty-seven, I’ve always done it with an open palm, and the ketchup flows right out.

I was hitting the fifty-seven. Nothing was working. I wouldn’t give up. I took a knife and stuck it in the bottle, hoping to draw it out. But it wouldn’t go in. Whatever was inside, it was hard, totally solid. I looked on the Internet, “ketchup, bottle, rock hard,” and I found this obscure condiment blogger who wrote about some promotion that Heinz ran in the sixties. It was like the whole Willie Wonka and the golden ticket thing, but it wasn’t a golden ticket, it was a bottle of solid ketchup. There would be only one, and the person who found it would win a million dollars.

I started to get excited. Imagine my luck, this bottle of ketchup getting passed down through the ages, somehow never being opened. Or maybe people got so frustrated thinking that the ketchup was just stuck, maybe they didn’t know to hit the fifty-seven, maybe they worried about a ketchup explosion, and so they always gave up, always asked for a new bottle of ketchup. But now it was all mine.

I got in touch with Heinz. It took several attempts. Nobody knew what I was talking about, but finally I found somebody who’d been at the company for years. He confirmed was I already knew, that Heinz owed me a million dollars.

“Come on,” some guy told me, “That was the sixties. Back then companies could say whatever they wanted on advertisements and not have to worry about paying up, about legal action.” Still, I wasn’t backing down without a fight. I’d hire a lawyer, I told them, I wouldn’t go away.

Finally one day I got a package in the mail. Several packages actually. Two UPS trucks filled with packages. I told them to drop everything off in the basement. Attached to the last one was a card. It read:

Rob. You wanted a million dollars? Here it is. A million dollars worth of ketchup packets. No fine print in the sixties means we can give you a million dollars as we see fit. Enjoy!

Heinz! I guess they got the last laugh after all. What am I supposed to do with all of this stuff? I tried unloading to the nearby restaurants, and that kind of worked, but nobody wanted to buy a million dollars worth outright. No, I sold like thirty dollars here, thirty dollars there. Nothing really. It barely made a dent in my inventory.

And meanwhile, I know basically everything there is to know about bottled ketchup, but packets? Do these things go bad? Are they all going to turn bad and explode in my basement? That would be such a mess, attracting so many bugs. I’ve got to move this product, it’s like a red time bomb down there.

A message from my corporate sponsors

Folks, I’ve decided to monetize this whole blogging experience, and so I’ve agreed to start lacing my writing with product placements. Not to worry though, I’m such a talented writer that I can assure you the built-in advertisements will blend in seamlessly with my award-winning prose. It’s like you won’t even know you’re being marketed to. Like when you’re eating a delicious bowl of Kashi breakfast cereal, you’re thinking to yourself, I can’t believe how smoothly our friends at Kashi have combined great taste with all of these all natural ingredients. Talk about getting your day off to a great start. Vitamins, minerals, all of the good complex carbs and proteins. That’s what you need to fuel your day. Or lunch. There’s nothing wrong with having cereal for lunch. Or even dinner. You’re hungry, you’re hungry. Kashi’s a great choice any time of the day.

That’s what this new approach is going to be like. You’ll say to yourself, wow, I just read a whole piece and I couldn’t even tell I was being sold on something. Obviously the blue highlighted hyperlinks might stand out somewhat, but just try not to think about them. Just read my blog posts for the same entertainment that you know you’re always guaranteed to experience. Just like when you watch House of Cards on Netflix. You’re not thinking about streaming video or what device you’re watching it on. You’re thinking to yourself, how have I lived my life so far without watching this groundbreaking new show? Compelling drama. Gripping narrative. Like it grips your imagination. Like Goodyear Tires grip the road, regardless of the terrain, rain or shine, you know your vehicle is in good hands.

Invariably there are going to be some people not happy with this new arrangement. They’ll call me a sell out. They’ll accuse me of promoting products and services that maybe I don’t even really like, that maybe I’m just bowing to corporate pressure, to increase traffic to a particular web site, or to draw attention to a paying sponsor. But that’s not what I’ve ever been about, and that’s not what I’m ever about to be about. It’s about delivering quality content to you, the reader. It’s about uncompromising values, about standards. It’s like TD Ameritrade, when they put together a portfolio of investments, you know they’re not sacrificing quality over profit. Just like Tommy Lee Jones and that guy from Law and Order tell you on the commercials: you’re putting your money somewhere you can trust, with people you can count on.

It’s about me writing new and fresh content, it’s about me not making the same joke over and over again, paragraph after paragraph, highlighting some random company, pretending they’re my corporate patron, making a generic sounding complement about them, and then linking to them. You’re gong to enjoy what you read here. Like you enjoy Coke. I love Coke. And Mountain Dew. I love Mountain Dew also. See? That’s different. Coke and Mountain Dew are clearly owned by two separate companies, and so they both wouldn’t pay to advertise on the same site, in the same paragraph. One of those is a paid shout-out, one of them my own opinion. See I can have it both ways. I can still write and have a voice and …

Hold on, I just got an email. I was wrong. I don’t like Mountain Dew at all. It’s gross. Too much sugar. And remember that whole thing about yellow number five? Doesn’t it decrease your sperm count?

Wait a second, another email. I actually had that mixed up. Coke is the problem here. Those bunch of fascists. Mountain Dew has always been one of my favorite soft drinks. And the sperm count thing? Yellow five actually increases your sperm count. Helping America, helping the next generation. Mountain Dew.

Readers, I guarantee that you’ll still be entertained every day. And if you get pointed to some quality products in the meantime? That sounds like a win-win to me. Like those big cans of Arizona green tea. The first win is that it’s only ninety-nine cents. The second win is after you take your first sip and realize just how delicious and refreshing your beverage is. The third win, so yeah, it’s actually a win-win-win, is when you finish that last sip, still want more, but realize that, because it’s so cheap, you can keep buying them and drinking them without pause. A true win-win-win.

And that’s what I’m going to offer. I thank you for your continued support, and look forward to offering only the finest of endorsements. Also, I’m thinking of paying some marketing firm to pay other blogs to mention my blog in their blog posts. Does that sound like a good idea? You think it might boost traffic? Let me know. Let’s go viral. Let’s get this going viral.