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Has Leo Burnett USA finally created the image of the male of the '90s as it did with the Jolly Green Giant or the "individualistic rugged" Marl-boro Man in the 1960s? Is he someone who's too old to dance in time to '70s music? Wears a Hawaiian shirt instead of West-ern gear? Is chubby and can't resist eating? Ho! Ho! Ho! The Nacho Man! (for Old El Paso).

The campaign's first commercial debuted July 4, 1995, introducing the character as a disco nightmare in a reprise of the Village People's "Macho Man." The spot, targeted at working women with families, was designed to inform the viewers that they could prepare Mexican nachos at home by simply throwing together some Old El Paso products.

That the message got through is clear from the sales gains for the full line of products from the Mexican foods marketer. Along the way the Nacho Man showed up in "Congo" (October 1995) and "Big Dipper" (January 1996) while carrying the campaign to No. 7 on our Top 10 list for the first quarter of this year.

What may seem a strange blend of image and message certainly works. When Pillsbury acquired Old El Paso from Pet Inc. in `95 it knew it was buying a well-established franchise, a strong following among the faithful and more than 100 stockkeeping units in the category.

What Pillsbury had to learn was that most Americans aren't faithful to the category and prefer to eat Mexican out because it's too complicated to make at home. Old El Paso also had a strong image of being "my mother's brand."

Reversing these negatives became the job of Burnett. And their Nacho Man is working hard at relating to Americans.

As a Southern wife observed: "He looks just like my husband. And just like him he doesn't feel guilty about snacking all the time."

Rick Lenny, president of Pillsbury Specialty Brands, doesn't feel guilty either. He's delighted about "the Nacho Man and what he has done to re-invigorate this 80-year-old brand. He is here to stay," he insists.

Dave Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests, New York.

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