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$200m WinXP media assault begins

Fluffybucks and Madonna's Ray of Light

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Microsoft will kick off a $200 million marketing campaign on Monday 15 October to build consumer awareness of Windows XP.

A decent slice of this is likely to be in the currency of channel promotion 'fluffybucks'. As our own John Lettice pointed out here, in the marketing spend minefield the only thing clear is that nothing's clear - marketing spend tends to be fuzzed into development costs, so huge amounts of fluffybucks can pop up in wild marketing claims covering several departments.

But back to channel promotion, although today was supposed to be the first day that ads highlighting Windows XP were allowed to be run by system builders, a number of companies broke ranks and ran promotions on XP soon after it was shipped to OEMs about three weeks ago.

No notable advertisements were to be seen in the main papers today, other than ones that have been seen previously from the main local system assemblers. Toys 'R Us, Staples, PC World and typically MS-friendly Dell actually ran promotions on machines running Windows Me in various papers. Tiny, Time and Evesham all ran ads on Win XP-based machines, but didn't make an enormous fuss of the OS.

The MS deal was you could sell XP loaded PCs but not make a song and dance about it, until today.

It is doubtful that the software monolith will reprimand any of the companies for prior ads, especially as some analysts believe it should have started promoting the software heavily as soon as it became available.

The Seattle Times today quoted a Giga Information Group analyst as saying, "They should have rolled the campaign early and got as much pre-sell on the product as they possibly could." In Bloomberg, the same analyst was quoted as saying, "The slowness of the ad campaign is a major strategic mistake."

Microsoft's group product manager for Windows countered that the company did an early push on Windows '98, which got people into stores; but they were then turned away because it hadn't shipped yet.

Madonna's 'Ray of Light' will be the theme tune this time around and we can expect to hear the song belting out from the television ads, which should hit screens come Monday. The ads will feature the same grassy hill / blue sky that can be seen on the background of new Windows XP installations.

The Beast's lead agency, McCann-Erikson, had to rush to redraft the initial theme of "Prepare to Fly" following the 11 September WTC tragedy. The new line is "Yes You Can" and focuses on the communications and media-manipulation features of the OS, such as Windows Messenger and Media Player. The campaign is expected to last for about four months. ®

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