I remember the Heinz 57 Ketchup commercial’s use of Carly Simon’s hit “Anticipation” better than the lyrics of the song itself. That’s the power of advertising and repetition. The later date of the 1978 commercial versus the 1971 date of the original song may have something to do with my memory, too.
Anticipation is generally thought of as a positive state of mind. Sometimes the anticipation of an event is more exciting than the event one is anticipating. Take the anticipation of ketchup pouring out of the bottle for example. The mental trick of waiting for the condiment was part of the enjoyment of using ketchup. After the packaging of ketchup in upside-down plastic squeeze bottles, the anticipatory ingredient was sacrificed in favor of instant gratification and convenience. Kids these days will never know the joy of waiting for Heinz ketchup to ooze from a tall, glass bottle.
Society has an entire day devoted to anticipation–Christmas Eve. If you count the days leading up to Christmas Eve, we have anticipation of the anticipation of December 24th. The build-up and excitement of anticipation adds more zing to Christmas Day. If the truth be told, even people who say they dismiss the Christmas holiday as “just another day”, still harbor at least a little bit of anticipation about the December 25th holiday. Even non-Christians can get all caught up in the social excitement. How can we ignore the decorations, the advertisements, the ubiquitous music, the hype of the season. I even anticipate the silly gripes of pundits telling us about the mythical “War on Christmas”.
If the Colonial American Puritans or the Soviet Union’s bureaucratic apparatchiks could not eliminate the anticipation of Christmas, we lowly folks who wish everyone Happy Holidays won’t do that dastardly deed, either. It’s not that we non-Christians want to eliminate Christmas. We say, “Happy Holidays” as a way to include everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike because equanimity is important. Besides that, I do wish my Christian affiliated family members and friends a “Merry Christmas” because that’s what they like to hear. Please don’t coerce me to say it though.
“The Moon I see now is the same Moon I saw before. Except that before, when I looked at it, it was in anticipation of what it would be like when I got there. That’s behind me now.”–Buzz Aldrin
We don’t need to be astronauts in order to feel overwhelmed with anticipation. The anticipation of a vacation trip or a visit to beloved family members is a wonderful thing. We know that the journey is almost as enjoyable as the destination. The journey, itself, might be thought of as a form of anticipation.
One should be careful when cultivating anticipation. It is better to err on the side of too little promotion of an event because over-hyping an event usually leads to emotional let-down. We get carried away with excitement when a slick commercial promises us the Moon about an item they’re selling. When we finally obtain the much desired goodie, we discover that it is just another mundane product.
The problem with grammatical superlatives is that words like greatest, best, amazing, or awesome is our overuse of them. Superlatives are used so frequently that they fail to trigger anticipation. Savvy advertisers know that an effective strategy is to tease consumers with small, tantalizing tidbits instead of huge, overwhelming displays of grandiosity. The use of small, tempting doses allows the targeted buyers to cultivate anticipation in their own minds. There is greater customer satisfaction when products are not over-hyped.
This brings me back to ketchup. In my opinion, ketchup used to taste yummier when I had to wait for it to ooze out of tall, glass bottles. The same goes for the holidays. They feel much more special and exciting when they’re not over-hyped.
Happy Christmas Eve.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes children’s entertainer, Fred Rogers. “I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”