Commercials of YesterYear: Pace Salsa... from New York City?!?

Monday, January 25, 2021

I've been thinking a lot lately about all of the old jingles and slogans that rattle around in my head from the many hours spent watching television growing up.  The mind of a child is like a sponge (a fact not lost on advertisers, I'm sure), and it seems like I remember quite a bit of the ads and catchphrases that inundated television of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.  

I had to laugh the other day when my Mom marveled that my daughter seems to "study" the TV when she looks at it.  She then commented on how I didn't have that sort of attention or interest in television when I was her age.  I guess she had forgotten that by the time I wasn't even 4, I had memorized "Mary Poppins" line for line and was reciting it for the whole family... and neighborhood.  Nevermind the entire section of my mind overflowing with jingles and catchphrases.

Unfortunately, it seems like nothing is memorable these days compared to YesterYear.  Seemingly no company has catch phrases, jingles, or even a fun mascot.  Is it the fear of offending someone that prevents ads from having any character?  Is it that everything's disposable or replaceable these days, so why not just have interchangeable people and things in the commercial?  

Maybe it's just as simple as everyone skips over ads these days, so they figure why put in the effort?  If you ask me, THAT is the perfect reason to put in the effort.  Make your ad stand out from the pack to get people talking.  


And in the late 80s and early 90s, one such company did stand out.  

Pace Salsa.
I often can't even hear someone say "New York City" without my mind immediately recalling the Pace advertisement, with a twangy southern accent, "NEEEWWW YORK CITY?!?" 

I also live within 30 miles of New York City (NEEEWWW YORK CITY!), so it happens a lot.  Sometimes, I even say it out loud, but so far, my wife hasn't caught on, although when I told her I was researching for this article, she had instant flashes of the ads from her childhood.

In 1945, Louisiana native David Pace left the Army and returned to San Antonio, Texas, where he had completed his Military Pilot Training years prior.   Having fallen in love with the area, Pace created Pace Foods in 1947 and developed a recipe for a new salsa he called "Picante" sauce, putting his own spin on the Spanish word "piquant," which translates to tasty or spicy.   By 1991, America's changing demographics and increased popularity of Mexican cuisine caused salsa, including Pace Picante, to be the most popular sauce or condiment in the country, overtaking even ketchup.  There's actually a Seinfeld skit where George mentions this new fact to Jerry, and Jerry responds that people just like to say "SALSA!"


Mr. Pace grew the company into a successful business, and many years later, in 1995, the company was acquired by Campbell Soup Company for $1.1 BILLION!  


Before the sale to Campbell Soup, Pace had run the famed "New York City" ad campaign.  Starting in the late 80s, the company touted their strength as a native Texas company.  The brand's ties to Texas and the proximity to the Mexican border led many Americans to believe it to be "authentic" Mexican cuisine.  The humorous ads would often start with a group of cowboys or ranch hands sitting around various campfires or other western-themed settings shooting the breeze while cooking dinner.  Real men stuff.  They'd inevitably run out of their Pace Picante salsa, and someone would hand over a can of generic brand salsa.  


The cowboys would all recoil in horror at the taste of the new stuff and quickly study the can looking at the ingredients.  Someone would read that it was made in New York City where the entire mob would exclaim "NEEEW YORK CITY?!?" with disgust before reminding everyone that Pace was made right there in good old "San An-Tone" San Antonio, Texas.  


There were several different versions of the same ad over the years.  It seemed like in 1995, the marketing slogan died out, right about the time that mega-corporation Campbell Soup took over and moved most of the production out of San Antonio.  

Pace did bring back the "New York City" tagline in 2004 briefly, but it wasn't the same.  A family of cowboys were taking a break eating salsa when one asks about the new neighbor.  The neighbor is blow-drying his horse's hair while placing it in curlers, and one responds with, "That's a guy that gets his salsa from New York City."  A younger ranch hand quietly says, "New York City?" in disgust.  You can see the ad below and decide for yourself if you think it's any good.


It doesn't hold a candle to the ads of the 80s and 90s if you ask me.  It must not have been a hit as it came and went pretty quickly.

Hopefully, you remember the original ad campaign as fondly as I do.  Now maybe every time you hear someone mention "New York City," you too will quietly respond with "NEEEWWW YORK CITY?!?"

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