But Vada Hill, 39, couldn't be happier about his new post as senior VP-marketing for Fannie Mae, the government-chartered financing company for home mortgages. Politics is his hobby, and he said he has been handed a chance to market part of the American dream-home ownership-to the middle class.
"It's an opportunity that is tailor-made for me," said the enthusiastic Mr. Hill. "I'm a guy who loves coming in when something is at zero and taking it from zero to 90."
Mr. Hill joined Taco Bell, a unit of Tricon Global Restaurants, in 1996 at a time of sagging fortunes for the nation's largest Mexican fast-food chain. Under his watch, a new agency was hired- TBWA/Chiat/
Day, Playa del Ray, Calif.-and one of the most successful restaurant campaigns in years was launched.
Mr. Hill also revved up product development, and notes that last year's Gorditas was the most successful new product in years for Taco Bell.
STARTING FROM SQUARE ONE
It's too early to say what he'll put on the marketing menu at Fannie Mae when he starts Sept. 1.
"A lot of what my mission is at Fannie Mae is to start from square one," he said. "They were looking for someone to bring marketing to this category. What that is and how this displays itself is anyone's guess."
What Mr. Hill does know is that he will focus first on the customer, which at Fannie Mae is mortgage-lending institutions.
John Buckley, senior VP-communicatons for Fannie Mae, said Mr. Hill's appointment will not mean a new advertising strategy, but rather a new marketing approach to the 3,000 lending institutions with which the financial agency works. Mr. Buckley said Fannie Mae envisions no account changes. Its agency has been GSD&M, Austin, Texas, since 1992.
Mr. Hill's primary charge, he said, is to determine and implement the best marketing strategy for each part of the increasingly segmented lending business.
THE RIGHT JOB
Mr. Hill said he wasn't looking for a new job, but once he got the call he knew it was for him.
"What is really intriguing is that it is a way to make a meaningful, important contribution to what defines America as being America," he said.
Mr. Hill, a graduate of Harvard University, grew up in Cincinnati and worked at Procter & Gamble Co. as a brand manager for seven years. He also served under former U.S. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, and ran the campaign for an Ohio congressional candidate.
He joined Taco Bell from BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles, where he was senior VP-group account director.
He said he views his new job as a mission. "If I can take my skills and put millions more people in homes, and link millions more people to the broader