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Microsoft Hopes Rolling Out Stones Will Gather Interest : Advertising: Firm wants its Windows 95 campaign to strike a chord in old and young.


Microsoft Corp. is hoping that upcoming Windows 95 ads, featuring MTV-style images and a hard-driving Rolling Stones tune will strike a chord among several generations of computer users.

The British rock group, around since the 1960s, is popular internationally and has a following among aging baby boomers as well as twentysomethings--the consumers Microsoft wants to reach in the $200-million global marketing campaign that gets under way next Thursday.

The commercials, which will break during NBC's "Seinfeld," are one part of a promotional blitz that includes an infomercial with "ER" star Anthony Edwards, print ads and in-store events. Windows 95 will be the costliest software introduction ever.

Microsoft believes the rock-style commercial, with fast-paced images of people using computers and Mick Jagger belting "Start Me Up," will help raise the level of excitement about the much-hyped software while giving it a hip image. In addition, the 1981 rock tune, the first ever licensed by the Rolling Stones for a commercial, reinforces a campaign theme that something big is about to start, the company says.

"We've taken on the idea of starting--what starting with Windows 95 means," says Microsoft advertising director Greg Perlot. "You start exploring, start discovering. Things like that."

The spots open with a shot of the Windows 95 start button. A fast-moving montage follows, including images of schoolchildren, taxicab passengers and office workers, all tapping into their computers. The commercials don't show what Windows 95 actually does. Perlot says details about the software will appear in later TV spots and in print ads.

In the initial TV spots, the company is "trying to represent the experience of a lot of users at a lot of different locations," Perlot says. "We're trying to give a sense of the promise of Windows 95."

Much of the pre-introduction media coverage has relieved Microsoft of the need to describe the product in its maiden ads, said Michael Kamins, an associate professor of marketing at University of Southern California's School of Business Administration. "People know what Windows is all about."

Besides, he added, "they are not introducing a new idea. Windows 95 has the old Windows as a base.

"What they are doing is creating an image kind of advertising, with commotion and noise, which is fine," Kamins said. "They are creating excitement in a way liked by the target audience."

According to Microsoft, the world's largest software company, the ads will be running in nine countries besides the United States, including Canada, Australia, Britain, France and Germany.

"The Stones are perfect to pick because they [appeal] to older folks and younger folks," said Jim Ward, manager of the Microsoft advertising account at the company's agency, Portland, Ore.-based Wieden & Kennedy. "In a way, they are timeless."

But Steven E. Permut, president of the Connecticut-based consulting firm Marketing Sciences, said that although the Microsoft ads will undoubtedly resonate with the "MTV generation," they may not do much for older executives who make the software-buying decisions.

"The problem is they are trying to reach two different segments of users. I don't think the ads will strike a chord with a 30-year-old, and definitely not with a 50-year-old corporate executive," Permut said.

Permut said many potential buyers must be convinced that they need to purchase Windows 95 and that the image ads don't make a strong enough case for the product.

"It doesn't address the question: What is the buyer's advantage over the existing system?" Permut said.

"People need a compelling argument to take on the risk of using a new operating system."

"We feel Windows 95 is the best manifestation of that proposition," said Wieden & Kennedy's Ward.

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