Sunday, December 01, 2013

Once Again, Pace Salsa Targets New York City

Back when I announced that we were moving to New York City, my first thought was to make a reference to the Pace commercials from the 1980s:
I know what you're thinking: New York City? They don't even know what picante sauce is supposed to taste like.

That's how deeply embedded those ads are in my consciousness. I only have to hear the phrase "New York City" and will immediately get an image of cowboys on the dusty plain holding an empty jar of salsa.

Well, the Pace commercials are no longer a fuzzy VHS memory. Pace, which is owned by Campbell Soup Co., has brought back the ads — with some tweaks for modern audiences.

In the original commercials, anyone who tried to serve salsa from New York City would be hanged or cooked alive. (I'm using "salsa" and "picante sauce" interchangeably here, which I know is its own violation.)

The new ads don't threaten violence — they just make fun of New Yorkers for being overly fastidious. Here's one where somebody who likes New York salsa also puts whipped cream on his hot chocolate.

I worry that "New York" is being used as code for "gay." (Hey, that's San Francisco's job!). But maybe I'm being overly sensitive.

Really, it's hard to know what to criticize here because the ads are all over the place.

In this one, the New York-friendly cowboy has an overly large tent (and uses a Clapper).

Right...because people in New York have large homes.

I guess it could be a reference to the city's skyscrapers, though I'm not sure anyone moving in to One57 is going to use a Clapper.

In this final one, the cowboy activates an alarm on his horse with a remote.

Like many New Yorkers, I don't own a car alarm (or a car). But I probably would if I lived in Texas.

I suppose these are just generic city-slicker jokes. Of course, the entire conceit of the ads is a bit absurd. Hardly anything is manufactured in New York City anymore, other than a few cage-free eggs in Park Slope. (Apparently the 1980s commercials originally referred to picante sauce from New Jersey — slightly more plausible — but they changed it to New York City because it had a better ring to it.)

It's hard to tell if the new ads are going to hold the same space in the pop-culture pantheon. I'm probably only nostalgic about the old commercials because I was forced to watch them so many times. (I don't even think we had a remote control in the mid-'80s, let alone a DVR.)

Today's ads will have to work a lot harder to achieve that kind of resonance.

UPDATE: I guess I'm not the only one who picked up on some gay overtones. GLAAD raised concerns about an older version of the New York City-bashing commercials (one that doesn't appear to be on the air anymore). That ad, which you can see here, features a cowboy who takes horse grooming to an extreme level. In Pace's defense, GLAAD notes, "the city cowboy himself does not otherwise look or act feminine."