One Latin American creative executive who's handled some work for Microsoft, called the Windows 95 campaign "very stupid. I couldn't believe this was the real Wieden & Kennedy print campaign made for launching Windows."
The ads from the Portland, Ore., agency were "disappointing" to Alexander Letts, chairman of SMI, a London ad agency representing other high-tech companies. Microsoft "clearly understood that they had to create excitement for the brand and explain it. [But] they haven't managed to communicate successfully the benefits of Windows 95. There's been a lot of hyperbole."
In Paris, one ad executive felt he was a long-distance observer of the launch. "I saw media coverage and campaigns abroad that made the launch seem like the opening of some new super-Spielberg film or perhaps the discovery of a new wonder drug," said Marc Bougery, VP-general director of the FCA!-BMZ International ad agency. "But here there was really nothing much: no radio, no TV, nothing much at all."
Another ad executive saw it upclose and liked it. "It was a super introduction," said John Dooner, CEO-chairman worldwide, for McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, whose Tokyo office this year was hired to do some assignments for Microsoft in Japan.
"These days all things provide the opportunity to communicate. For Microsoft to recognize that was the inspiration of the introduction. This was a masterpiece of mixed-event marketing. They extended the definition of media penetration."
Indeed, as Steve Gatfield, chief executive of Leo Burnett in London, noted: "I think anyone who's not aware Windows 95 has arrived has been in a dark hole. The only question I have is whether the campaign is bigger than the delivery."
Judging from interviews around the world with computer retailers and, more importantly, consumers, advertising executives aren't the only ones critiquing Microsoft's massive launch of its long-heralded Windows 95-and finding it less than productive.
"My first impression was to mistrust the campaign because it's had so much hype," said Mario Velasco, chief of the computer department with Mexico City-based publishing company IIe. "Microsoft is presenting it as if it's the eighth wonder of the world. They're also selling the idea of fashion, that if you don't have Windows 95 you're completely out of date. I find that a little weird."
Andrew Walther, a Sydney sales manager for an office products company, said, "For me, I'm going to let everyone else `start it up' while I watch and listen and probably get a revised edition in about six months time."
But for all the complaints about the "hype," Mr. Letts said the brand awareness side of the campaign-in contrast to the product ads-has been great. "It's lively and upbeat, positioned as very much part of the everyday world."
The launch strategy was right, said Gabriel Zellmeister, VP-creative director at W/Brasil in Sao Paulo. "The huge, one-day campaign" blitz was a good approach.
Microsoft definitely created "awareness and a bubble of expectation," Mr. Gatfield said. "What's impacted most is the PR around it, which the advertising has supported. The PR softened the consumer's mindset. However," he added, "your expectations are raised [by the advertising] to a level rather greater, I think, than the product delivers, especially if you're used to Mac."
Indeed, while he keeps his adman's eye on the Windows 95 hoopla, when it comes to the next step in computing, he and Burnett aren't rushing to buy. His company isn't alone. In an in-house publication, British Airways stated: "Like most large businesses with elaborate, sophisticated computer capabilities, we have decided this initial release of Windows 95 is not sufficiently stable and reliable for use on our own networks."
The Wieden multimillion-dollar, mass-market ad campaign, running in more than 20 countries in more than one dozen languages, is the most global effort ever made by Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. In contrast, the company's first branding campaign last November ran in only six countries-Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.-accounting for 84% of Microsoft's revenue.
In the first four days of its availability in North America, Microsoft said it sold more than 1 million copies of Windows 95. In the U.K., about 250,000 copies were sold in the first 10 days, which Microsoft said compares to the first three months of sales for its previously best-selling U.K. product. Sales in Australia were surpassing expectations, with some store managers complaining they didn't receive their full orders for the first two or three days after the launch, thereby losing sales.
Analysts estimate consumers worldwide bought 4 million to 6 million boxes of Windows 95 in the first three weeks after the Aug. 24 launch, exceeding many observers' expectations. And that doesn't include copies of the software packaged with new computers. Getting off to a fast start, however, is imperative for Microsoft's global goals.
Computer Intelligence InfoCorp, a La Jolla, Calif., market research firm, projects Microsoft will sell 81 million copies of Windows 95 by yearend 1996, when the firm estimates one-third of all PCs on the planet will be using the new operating system.
To attain that goal, Microsoft reconfigured its marketing strategy. Microsoft once left its "subsidiaries," or countries, free to call their own shots in marketing, advertising and even logos. The days of chaotic marketing are over.
This time the creative and media-buying was centralized. The regions are still given considerable autonomy. Promotions such as the banner on the CN Tower in Toronto or the Windows 95 logo painted on a U.K. field were inspired and handled locally.
Contributing to this story: Amy B. Barone, Jo Bedingfield, Kevin Cote, Bruce Crumley, Michael J. Galetto, Bradley Johnson, Geoffrey Lee Martin, Drusilla Menaker, Dagmar Mussey, Jack Russell, Charles Siler, Laurel Wentz, and Jeffrey D. Zbar.