Windows 95 ads built on 'nuts and bolts'

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So how do you advertise the most hyped product in computer history?

By injecting a bit of reality into the $200 million campaign.

Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 campaign is focused far more on the product and benefits than the giant's inaugural branding efforts over the past year.

"It's not grandiose claims," said Brad Chase, general manager of personal operating systems. "It's nuts and bolts."

The TV campaign starts Aug. 24, introduction date for the new PC operating system, with a spot featuring the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

TV will run in 23 countries, vs. six for Microsoft's first big TV campaign last fall. Microsoft is mapping a massive U.S. network and cable TV buy.

Microsoft actually takes a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to Windows 95 hype in an eight-page ad running that day in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Magazine ads began appearing in business and consumer titles distributed over the weekend. Another campaign already is under way in computer magazines.

Microsoft, meanwhile, today starts running ads on World Wide Web sites, such as HotWired, that direct people to its own home page.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., created the TV and consumer print ads for Windows 95. Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, produced the trade ads as well as ads for applications software such as Office 95, the most important new product ready for the new operating system.

With Windows 95, Microsoft thinks it has the answer to a question--and ad theme line--that baffled people last year.

"Windows 95 really is the showcase for "Where do you want to go today?' " said Greg Perlot, director of advertising at Microsoft. That slogan continues in this campaign.

Windows 95 is the centerpiece of a nearly $200 million global branding campaign that will run through June 30.

Windows 95 seems assured to be a hit product because the PC industry has adopted it as the new standard.

But Jim Ward, Wieden's account director, said the ads have a key mission: Get tens of millions of Windows 3.1 users to trade up.

"The main enemy here is inertia," Mr. Ward said. So the TV spot, in 60- and 30-second versions, creates excitement by showing fast cuts of Windows 95 users in action. Print then focuses on features and benefits.

TV uses the operating system's on-screen, mouse-click "start" button as the icon to show the software lets users start doing PC tasks in new ways, start doing more on a PC and start joining the movement to Windows 95.

The "start" button is Microsoft's "invitation to people to participate in something that is changing the world," said Chris Wall, a Wieden creative director and, like Mr. Ward, a veteran top executive on the Apple Computer account at BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles.

The spot's democratic message is Apple-like; the difference is Microsoft's 90% PC software market share means it does control the computer for the rest of us.

Microsoft is expected to add more spots in coming months focused on features and benefits. Windows 95 isn't mentioned in the first spot till a super at the end, yet this is clearly a spot about computers; that connection is far clearer than in Microsoft's first-year spots, which were criticized as too oblique.

Microsoft is known, and feared, for continually improving its software, and this campaign--call it Version 2.0 of Wieden's Microsoft work--reflects that same discipline.

Said Mr. Perlot, the ad director and another BBDO veteran: "We don't claim to have all of the answers. But we're certainly learning."

Copyright August 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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