HEIGHTS, AND DEPTHS, OF HYPE

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While bleary-eyed computer users were snatching Windows 95 off store shelves in the U.S., Londoners were grabbing free newspapers, courtesy of Microsoft Corp., and the Poles were getting ready to launch a submarine to celebrate the debut of the new operating system.

Microsoft sprinkled its vast marketing budget around the world and into some very alternative media.

At home in the U.S., New York's Empire State Building was bathed in the colors of the Windows 95 logo, or at least most of those colors, for the debut. The building's spotlights could only accommodate three of the logo's four colors-red, yellow and green. Blue was left out.

Microsoft public relations agency Waggener Edstrom in Portland, Ore., was behind that effort, the first time corporate colors have lit up the 102-floor skyscraper.

Another building enlisted for the debut was the CN Tower in Toronto. Ten days before the launch, a giant letter "O" appeared on the tower, the tallest building in the city. The next day another letter appeared, then another, until finally on the debut day, there was a 300-foot-high Windows 95 sign.

Across the pond, Rupert Murdoch's The Times was free Aug. 24 as Microsoft paid for a 1.5 million pressrun to promote the Windows 95 launch with an advertising supplement. The run has a retail value of about $580,000.

Fleet Street rivals urged readers to ask for loads of free copies of The Times-and throw them away.

Also, airline passengers flying over the U.K. that day saw the Windows 95 logo painted on fields.

In Australia, a four-story-high Windows 95 box sailed into Sydney Harbor on a barge greeted by musicians and dancers.

The festivities aren't over yet, with more to come during the first week of September.

In Paris, Microsoft will host an exclusive gathering of 7,000 in the Palais des Congres. In Austria, the faithful will gather at Vienna's Stephansdom Cathedral.

And lucky Spain: Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will make a personal appearance Sept. 5.

Microsoft will test new waters of hype in Poland, where journalists will be taken on a submarine ride to see what a world without windows looks like.

Don't expect any Windows 95 banners on the Taj Mahal soon. The launch has been delayed in India as Microsoft changes the Windows 95 map of the disputed state of Jammu-Kashmir to conform with those recognized by the United Nations.

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