The Pop History Dig

“Microsoft & Too Close”
2012

Screen shot from Microsoft's "Welcome To A More Beautiful Web" TV ad for its Explorer 9 web browser, March 2012.
Screen shot from Microsoft's "Welcome To A More Beautiful Web" TV ad for its Explorer 9 web browser, March 2012.
Screen shot from Microsoft's "Welcome To A More Beautiful Web" TV ad for its Explorer 9 web browser, March 2012.
Screen shot from Microsoft's "Welcome To A More Beautiful Web" TV ad for its Explorer 9 web browser, March 2012.
Another screen shot from Microsoft's March 2012 Explorer TV ad using "Too Close" song clips in its soundtrack. Click photo to view the first version of the ad at YouTube.
Another screen shot from Microsoft's March 2012 Explorer TV ad using "Too Close" song clips in its soundtrack. Click photo to view the first version of the ad at YouTube.

     In March 2012, Microsoft began using a song titled “Too Close” by an unknown British singer-songwriter named Alex Clare to help advertise its Explorer web browser.  Microsoft’s ad succeeded in turning heads, providing a “look-at-me” moment courtesy of the song’s powerful sound.  But this  wasn’t the first time that Microsoft sought to use pop music to help sell its wares.

     Nearly 20 years ago, company founder Bill Gates spent millions to use a well-known Rolling Stones song, “Start Me Up,” as a musical theme to kick off the release of Microsoft’s Windows 95 PC software.  But in 2012 when the new Explorer ad was being offered, the stakes were a little bit different.

     In 1995 Microsoft was then the top computer software company in the world and Windows 95 was a much anticipated release.  In 2012, Microsoft was engaged in a battle for browser market share with tough competition coming from Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox. 

     Google, in fact, had used the Lady Gaga song, “The Edge of Glory,” to promote its Chrome browser in a well-done and upbeat 2011 TV ad starring Lady Gaga that generated a sizable following.   However, the music Microsoft chose to run with its Explorer ad in 2012 — being from a relatively unknown artist and not a recognized hit — was something of a gamble.

     And perhaps the bigger story here is what the Microsoft ad did for the music and the artist rather than the other way around.  In fact, by some accounting, the one-minute Explorer ad – which aired in at least two variations – did more for the artist than it did for the Explorer browser, sending Clare’s song to the top of the pop music charts.

Music Player
“Too Close”-Alex Clare
[scroll down for lyrics]


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     Alex Clare’s song,  “Too Close,” was first released in the U. K. on April 15, 2011.  It was the second single from his debut album, The Lateness of the Hour.  The track, written by Clare, had good pedigree, being produced by Mike Spencer and two electronic/dance music producer/DJs known as “Diplo & Switch” – Diplo being Thomas Pentz, a Philadelphia-based producer, rapper, and songwriter; and Switch being David Taylor, a UK-based songwriter, sound engineer and record producer.

Alex Clare, singer-songwriter.
Alex Clare, singer-songwriter.
     Still, upon release, Clare’s album struggled for traction and nothing much happened.  But nearly a year later, in March 2012, “Too Close” was selected as the soundtrack to Microsoft’s TV ad.  In March and April, the ad began running.  It aired during prime-time TV broadcasts and also in movie theater spots that ran before feature films such as “The Hunger Games.” 

     Not long thereafter people began making internet queries asking about “that song with the Explorer ad.”  Over the summer, the Explorer ad ran during the Summer Olympics, and into the fall, during the baseball playoffs and early football season.  The ad’s exposure sent Clare’s song soaring on music charts, achieving international recognition in the early weeks of the ad’s airing. 

Cover art for Alex Clare single, “Too Close.”
Cover art for Alex Clare single, “Too Close.”
     On April 15, 2012, one year after its initial release, the single debuted at No. 37 on the U.K. Singles Chart.  In the U.S., the revived song debuted around the same time at No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100.  By May 16th,  “Too Close” song peaked at No. 4 on the U.K. Singles Chart and its also topped the German charts at No.1.  Sales totaled over 100,000 downloads after the first weeks of release.  By late September 2012, “Too Close” peaked at No. 8 on Billboard chart, remaining on that chart for more than 26 weeks.

     “I’d been nowhere to being on the top 10 on the pop charts,” recalled Clare in one interview after his song had become a hit.  “And then I was flying into Germany and… I had this really weird experience in Berlin of being told, ‘Your record is the number one record in the country’.”

     Music Video.  When “Too Close” was first released in March 2011, before the Explorer ad, it had an earlier associated music video on YouTube.  That video featured Clare singing his song in a chair intermixed with scenes of a Kendo fight between two heavily-padded athletes in black uniforms.  The video takes place in a deserted factory building.  Initial viewings, prior to the Explorer ad, found very small numbers.  But two months after the Internet Explorer 9 ad began running, pageviews on the You Tube video jumped to more than 3 million, and by late September 2012, to more than 25 million.  A music discovery app named Shazam – which was used 150 million times by one count to help identify the song by those making queries – also helped push the growth of “Too Close.”

“Too Close”
Alex Clare

You know I’m not one to break promises
I don’t want to hurt you but I need to breathe
At the end of it all, you’re still my best friend
But there’s something inside that I need to release
Which way is right, which way is wrong
How do I say that I need to move on
You know we have is separate way

And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself
And it feels like I am just too close to love you
So I’ll be on my way

You given me more that I can return
Yet there’s so much that you deserve
Nothing to say, nothing to do,
I’ve nothing to give
I must leave without you
You know we have is separate way

And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself
And it feels like I am just too close to love you
So I’ll be on my way
So I’ll be on my way

And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing that I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself
And it feels like I am just too close to love you
So I’ll be on my way

So I’ll be on my way
So I’ll be on my way

     As for the Explorer ad, it appears that the song choice was the call of Keith Rivers, a Seattle-based film maker who made the decision to use clips from “Too Close” in the ad.  Rivers had come across the song after friend and former “American Idol” contestant Blake Lewis introduced him to Clare’s music shortly before Rivers started working on the Explorer ad project.  Rivers became captivated by Clare’s sound and believed the song would work well in the ad.

     “It was the emotional intensity of Clare’s song coupled with the depth and richness of sound that made film director Keith Rivers feel that ‘Too Close’ was the perfect complement to the visuals and message of the Internet Explorer TV spot…,” according to a Microsoft statement.  One primary focus of the ad was to “make an emotional connection” with viewers.  Rivers found Clare’s song to be  “filled with uplifting energy and vocals…”

     The style of music heard in “Too Close” is called “dubstep,” and in the case of this particular song, also described as “dub-soul fusion.”  Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, England. 

     Allmusic has described the overall sound of dubstep as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals.”

     The earliest dubstep releases date back to 1998, and some of the music has verged on darker instrumental treatments.  The genre also uses experimental tracks with  dub remixes of instrumental music.  Clare has described “Too Close” as “an electronic song” with live elements – live drums and live guitars – “a mix of live music and electronic music.”

Alex Clare, without beard, in February 2007 with Amy Winehouse at the Brit Awards in London.
Alex Clare, without beard, in February 2007 with Amy Winehouse at the Brit Awards in London.
     As for the “Too Close” message and lyrics, the song was inspired, according to Clare, by a particular relationship with a close friend that turned romantic.  “One thing led to another, but it didn’t really work out and that felt too close,” he says.  Clare had a brief relationship with the late singer Amy Winehouse in 2006.  They met while he performed and worked as a chef at a bar she frequented, The Hawley Arms in Camden, North London.  They dated for less than a year, and after the romance ended, they remained on good terms.  But Clare has stated that his relationship with Winehouse had nothing to do with “Too Close.”

Cover art for Alex Clare album, “The Lateness of the Hour.”
Cover art for Alex Clare album, “The Lateness of the Hour.”
     Alex Clare was born and raised Southeast London, birthplace to other notable artists, such as H.G. Wells and David Bowie.  Clare grew up listening to his father’s jazz records and was drawn to blues and soul and artists such as Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and others.  His childhood surroundings, as well as his love for literature, are credited with inspiring some of his songs, but personal relationships and their stories also help fuel his writing.  He has described his music career as kind of an accidental hobby.  “Most of my friends grew up playing in bands because there was literally nothing else to do.  It was just a gig.”  Though Clare took up the trumpet and drums as a youngster, he eventually placed an emphasis on guitar and songwriting, playing open mike nights with original material, and moving toward dubstep and U.K. garage music.

     After his debut album The Lateness of the Hour had faltered in 2011, Clare was dropped by his record label and he then started to re-evaluate his career.  Clare, an orthodox Jew, then went back to school in Israel and generally took a few months off to consider his options.  Then his fortunes changed.  “I got an email from someone at Microsoft asking permission to use [the song].  I said yes, not thinking much more of it.”  Not long thereafter, Universal Republic signed Clare to a new record deal that also brought his Lateness of the Hour album to U.S. audiences.

     In May 2012, an instrumental version of  “TooClose” was used in an advertisement for the U.K. version of the television series Revenge.  The song also appears in the end credits of the Liam Neeson film, Taken 2, released in October 2012.  “Too Close” meanwhile, became a multiplatinum single all over the world, and by October 2012, had sold over 2 million digital downloads in the U.S. alone.

Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals baseball team chose “Too Close” for his “entrance music.”
Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals baseball team chose “Too Close” for his “entrance music.”
     Ball Park Music.  During the spring and summer of 2012, as the song was being heard more frequently in the U.S., it began to be used by several professional baseball players of Major League teams as their “entrance music” – that is, music clips used as the player comes on the field or comes to bat.  Among players choosing “Too Close” for such entrance mucic were, for example: Zack Cozart of the Cincinnati Reds; Laynce Nix’s of the Philadelphia Phillies; and Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals.  Microsoft’s Explorer ad using the song also aired on TV during Major League Baseball’s playoff games in September and October 2012.  A second version of the Explorer ad had also been running since July 2012.  This version of the ad continued to use “Too Close” as its soundtrack, but incorporated some new video sequences, including a clip from The Avengers superhero film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  That version of the ad is sampled below right.


Ad Critique

 

     As for the content of the Explorer ad, there were a few folks out there paying attention – some offering critiques and at least one website posting a humorous video parody.  One web article, appearing under the title, “That IE9 Advert…,” at Rob Dudley.co.uk, investigated some of the quotes used in the ad extolling Explorer 9, such as: “IE9 is fast, lean and modern” –Wired magazine; “IE9 is amazingly fast”–New York Times; “IE9 Smoked the competition”–The Next Web; and others.  The reviewer found a few of those statements to be stretches or taken out of context.  One reader commenting on that review, and posting under the name “Yup,” offered the following:

…I find this commercial so annoying I had to look it up on the web.  I think mostly it’s due to nothing being shown in the commercial having anything to do with browsers?  I mean Marvel?  The Avengers?  Okay so there’s Vimeo.  But when did Vimeo become the litmus test for having an awesome browser?  It’s not the Crysis of websites, for goodness sake.  Then there’s the background lyrics “I think that I am too close to love you / I can’t lie no more / Got to be true to myself” implying what?  That all the years IE was considered the worst browser because of the security and stability issues was just hubris?  We strayed from the best of IE for Opera, Firefox, and Chrome because of their trendiness?

I don’t know — I’ve used every one of these browsers and Opera is consistently faster and more stable for my needs.  It works no matter whether I’m on my beefy desktop or my 7 year old laptop that struggles along on 1 gig ram.  That said I will always use Firefox when I can because of the add-ons.  I am looking forward to trying IE9 because I’ve heard they’ve really made some improvements, but I don’t appreciate bullshit marketing.

Alex Clare performing with guitar. Photo, Jay Tilles.
Alex Clare performing with guitar. Photo, Jay Tilles.
     Another critic felt that the use of dubstep soundtracks in advertising was trendy and that marketers were rushing to use it to sell just about anything to the dubstep target demographic.  This trend was ill-fated, the critic charged, and the music’s place in pop culture would likely die a quick death.  This particular critic also cited the Explorer ad using “Too Close” as one of those cases “gone wrong” with dubsetp, and that the Explorer ad took its soundtrack “too far.”

     Still, by early November 2012, some internet analysts were reporting that Microsoft’s Explorer browser was gaining market share from Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, with at least part of the reason being the 2012 advertising campaign that used the “Too Close” music.  Alex Clare, in any case, was happy that Microsoft chose his song to run with the ad – probably the one clear winner in the whole enterprise.

     Readers of this story may also find other related stories at this website of interest, including, for example: “Google & Gaga, 2011″ (profile of Google’s Chrome browser ad campaign using Lady Gaga, Dan Savage & others); “The iPod Silhouettes, 2000-2011″ (Apple’s very successful iPod ad campaign using silhouette dancers); “Start Me Up, 1995″ ( Microsoft Windows 95 ad campaign using Rolling Stones music); and “Big Chill Marketing, 1980s-1990s” (how the soundtrack from The Big Chill film changed advertising).  Other story choices can be found at the Annals of Music or Madison Avenue category pages.  Thanks for visiting - Jack Doyle 


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Date Posted: 7 November 2012
Last Update: 7 November 2012
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Microsoft & Too Close: 2012,”
PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover art for sheet music for Alex Clare song, "Too Close."
Cover art for sheet music for Alex Clare song, "Too Close."
Another photo of Alex Clare, without beard, in February 2007 escorting Amy Winehouse at the Brit Awards in London, the British equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Winehouse won Best British Female Artist that year.
Another photo of Alex Clare, without beard, in February 2007 escorting Amy Winehouse at the Brit Awards in London, the British equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Winehouse won Best British Female Artist that year.
 

“A More Beautiful Web Is… Internet Explorer TV Commercial,” YouTube.com, March 5, 2012 by internetexplorer.

“Welcome to a More Beautiful Web – 60 Second Internet Explorer Commercial,” YouTube.com, Other version of ad (with Avengers clip), published on July 8, 2012 by internetexplorer.

Andrew Hampp, “Alex Clare Talks Microsoft Ad, Amy Winehouse & Career Re-Start,” Billbaord.com, April 14, 2012.

“The Web Comes to Life With New Internet Explorer Ad Featuring Singer Alex Clare,” Microsoft.com, March 05, 2012.

Alex Clare, Wikipedia.org.

“Alex Clare Sails Into Top 100 Electronic After MS IE 9 Commercial,” MusicMetric. com, May 30, 2012.

Maeve McDermott, “Meet Alex Clare, the Voice Behind ‘Too Close’,” USA Today, July 15,2012.

“Alex Clare Reflects On His Rocky Ride To Success,” CBSLocal.com, July 17, 2012

Bill Lamb, “Top 10 Hot Pop Songs,” About.com , July 31, 2012 (#4).

Kia Makarechi, “Alex Clare & ‘Too Close': Singer Talks New Fame, Working With Diplo & Dating Amy Winehouse,” HuffingtonPost. com, July 24,2012.

“That IE9 Advert…,” RobDudley.co.uk, August 15, 2012.

Tom Lanham, “Alex Clare Happy with Commercial Success,” SFExaminer.com, August 22, 2012.

Maeve McDermott, “Internet Explorer Ad Gets a Hit for Alex Clare’s Song “Too Close,” Chicago Sun-Times, August 30, 2012

“Discover Alex Clare: The Man Behind That Dubstep Internet Explorer Song,” JustDoHits. com, September 29, 2012.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, “IE Gains in Latest Browser War Results,” ZDNet.com, November 1, 2012.

Chris Matyszczyk, “Microsoft’s IE9 Suffers Vicious Parody Treatment – You’ve Seen That Rather Dynamic Internet Explorer 9 Ad, Haven’t You? The One That’s Pulsating and Powerful? Well, Here’s a Slightly Different Take,” CNet.com, October 6, 2012.

“Internet Explorer 9 Commercial (The Honest Version),” YouTube.com, October 4, 2012, by
wwideinterweb (parody of Explorer TV ad).

“Too Close (Alex Clare song),” Wikipedia.org.

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“Start Me Up”
1995

Bill Gates silhouetted against the “start” button during a video portion of the Windows 95 launch at Microsoft  in Redmond, Washington, August 1995. AP photo.
Bill Gates silhouetted against the “start” button during a video portion of the Windows 95 launch at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, August 1995. AP photo.
     In the annals of advertising history, one of the great coups in the use of rock ‘n roll music to help sell things came in the summer of 1995 when Bill Gates of the Microsoft Corporation used the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” song to help launch his company’s Windows 95 computer software.  As the story goes, it was Gates’ idea to use the song, as the tune dovetailed nicely with the prominent “start button” feature that appeared on the Windows computer screen.  Initially it was rumored that Gates paid something in the neigh- borhood of $10-to-$14 million to the Stones to use their song.  The actual figure may have been lower than that.  But as the story goes, Gates reportedly asked Jagger personally how much it would cost to use the song.   Jagger, being the naughty boy he is, threw out what he thought would be a very high number, something in the millions; a number that would surely dissuade Gates in his quest.  But Jagger’s ploy didn’t phase Gates — at least according to legend.  Whatever amount Jagger had suggested, Gates agreed to it on the spot.  Still, there came some longer negotiations regarding the details on rights and usage.  But the deal did get made.

     Once the song was wedded to the Microsoft campaign and its TV spot, most who heard and/or saw it agreed it was a most effective piece of commercial persua- sion.  “The power-guitar chords are unmistakably familiar, imprinted on us through decades of party time,” wrote Newsweek’s Stephen Levy describing the opening bars of “Start Me Up” in his September 1995 piece on the Windows launch.  He called the tune’s use by Microsoft an attempt to “anthemize” the Windows 95 operating system.  “The purchase of that classic hook,” he wrote, “symbolizes the brilliant way that Microsoft marketing wizards have managed to transmogrify a technological molehill into the Mount McKinley of software…”

     In the TV spot itself, as seen above, a series of quick-cut screen shots are shown with children and adults working with computers in various settings as descriptive word titles for those uses flash across the screen in sync with the Stones’ music and the ad’s “start” theme — Start Exploring, Start Discovering, Start Learning, Start Doing, Start Organizing, Start Connecting, Start Managing, Start Creating, Start Playing, Start Moving, and finally, Start Windows 95.  As the ad closes with the music still playing, the final screen shot has the Microsoft Windows 95 logo and then the last phrase, “Where do you want to go today?”  But the Stones’ music is definitely effective in carrying the message and setting an upbeat tone.


Song History

‘Start Me Up’ began as a reggae tune in earlier years, but was turned into a more hard-driving rock sound for use in this ‘Tatto You’ album by 1981.
‘Start Me Up’ began as a reggae tune in earlier years, but was turned into a more hard-driving rock sound for use in this ‘Tatto You’ album by 1981.
     “Start Me Up” actually began its musical journey with the Stones back in the 1970s.  It was one of the songs used in recording sessions in Munich, Germany during 1975 for the album Black and Blue.  Initially the song was recorded as a reggae-rock track, but after dozens of takes the band stopped recording it, as it reminded them of something on the radio.  The song also cropped up from time to time in other Stones recording sessions in the late 1970s, and at some point it had bee given working titles such as “Never Stop” and “Start It Up.”  But it had never been formally recorded or released.  By 1981, heading out to tour and surveying their old taped archive, a version of the song was found that had more of a rock sound to it they liked and soon began re-working it.  This version, with overdubbing, was tracked in early 1981, mixing in some unique reverb, with final touches added in a New York recording session, including Jagger’s switch in lyrics from “start it up” to “start me up.”  The lyrics in the final version allude partly to motorcycle metaphors and the rider’s love interest, with hidden and not-so-hidden meanings and sexually-loaded double-entendre throughout.  A few of the lines in the final tune are similar to some used by a Keith Richards- favored blues singer named Lucille Bogan.

‘Start Me Up’ cover sleeve for Rolling Stones single released in August 1981.
‘Start Me Up’ cover sleeve for Rolling Stones single released in August 1981.
     One recent reviewer of the song at the James BioMagazine notes that while much of the music world was hurting following the death of John Lennon in 1980, and writing maudlin tributes, the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” came as “a reaffirmation of rock music’s vitality,” showing that the Stones at least “were still keeping the torch alive, as lascivious and as powerful as ever.”  This reviewer also added that much of the music genre the Stones had made their own — from blues to the urban music of the 70’s and 80’s — was built upon sexual longing.  “Maybe that’s why the Stones were better than any other rock band at assimilating those styles;” he wrote, “they understood this reality and, rather than running from it or prettifying it, they reveled in it, pure and unadulterated.  ‘Start Me Up’ is the epitome of that…”

     In any case, “Start Me Up” in 1981 became a Rolling Stones pop hit and also the lead track on their August 1981 album, Tattoo You.  The song was also released as a single.  In the U.K., it peaked at No. 7.  In the U.S., “Start Me Up” spent three weeks during October and November 1981 at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and in Australia, it went to No. 1.  “Start Me Up” thereafter became a popular song for opening the Stones’ live shows, and it has been featured on their live albums as well as most Stones’ compilation albums since its release, and other albums including Rewind (1971-1984), Jump Back, and Forty Licks.


Windows 95

     Nearly 15 year after the song’s initial popularity, Bill Gates hit upon the idea of using “Start Me Up” for the Windows 95 launch.  Gates happened to meet Mick Jagger at some point and asked him how much it would cost to use the song in advertising.  Reportedly, Jagger replied with some amount in the millions  — $10 million by one account  — a sum, in any case, that Jagger thought would be outrageously high.Microsoft’s “Start Me Up” campaign was aimed at key groups of Rolling Stones followers — from baby boomers to twenty- somethings…   But Gates, undeterred, didn’t flinch and agreed to the amount.  Still, there were some months of negotiating between Microsoft and the Stones to nail down the song’s use, including talks with the Stones’ agent and financial advisor, Prince Rupert, as well as some direct talks with the Stones in Amsterdam.  This was the first time that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the group’s songwriters, had sold a song’s use for advertising.  Jagger and Richards hold the rights to Rolling Stones’ songs they have written since 1972.  However, some of their earlier songs, which they did not hold the rights to, had been used in previous advertising, including one use of the song “Satisfaction” in a Snickers candy bar ad by Mars, Inc.  Jagger and Richards were not happy about that incident, but those rights were held by a former manager.  Jagger and Richards had generally not been keen on using their material in advertising, but with Gates and Microsoft, they made a deal.

The Microsoft 'Windows 95' logo.
The Microsoft 'Windows 95' logo.
     “Start Me Up” became a key part of the Microsoft product launch, as the consumers the company especially wanted were in that large, tech-savvy and mostly well-off demographic that ranged from baby boomers to twentysomethings  — also a key group of Rolling Stones devotees.  The commercials with the “Start Me Up” music first aired in August 1995 during NBC’s popular Seinfeld TV show, and continued broadcasting thereafter for a time on other shows as well.  The Stones’ music got the attention of Microsoft’s target demographic and beyond, leaving no doubt for some a lasting association between the song and Microsoft’s product.  (In fact, a few critics would later refer pejoratively to one of the song’s lines — not used in the ad, however — “you make a grown man cry,” referring to subsequent Windows 95 problems).  But the Stones’ song, as important as it was in the Windows 95 launch, was still only part of Microsoft’s much larger $300 million advertising and promotion campaign.


Jay Leno, Too

Microsoft’s Bill Gates on stage with Jay Leno at the Windows 95 launch event in Redmond, WA.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates on stage with Jay Leno at the Windows 95 launch event in Redmond, WA.
     In the U.S., the promotional kick-off for Windows 95 was centered in Redmond, Washington and included popular late-night talk show host Jay Leno, who served as a kind of MC for the ceremonies in a big pavilion event and unveiling on the Microsoft campus.  Over 12,500 people were invited to attend the launch, plus live satellite broadcasts were made available in 42 U.S. cities and world capitals.  The Rolling Stones tune accompanied Bill Gates on stage as he booted up the new program at the ceremony.  It was broadcast live via satellite to other launch events and retail outlets nationwide.  Gates’ best line during the show, digging at Jay Leno, was: “Windows 95 is so easy even a talk-show host can figure it out.”  The event in Redmond, however, was no casual affair.  It took more than 20 days and a crew of over 200 to set it up.  It was later described as a cross between a high-tech expo and a carnival, including its own “midway” with various pavilions where attendees could try out the new Windows 95 software and related products.  As for the product itself, there were more than 11 million lines of code involved and some 500 people at Microsoft who worked on it, all introduced en masse at one point during the ceremony.  But the media blitz for Windows 95 went well beyond the Redmond event, and in fact, all around the world.

USA Today ran a front-page story on the big ‘Windows 95' show that Bill Gates put on in Redmond, WA.
USA Today ran a front-page story on the big ‘Windows 95' show that Bill Gates put on in Redmond, WA.
     A 30-minute promotional TV video, or “cyber sitcom” as it was called — featured then-popular Friends sitcom TV stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry using and highlighting the Windows 95 software.  Another Windows 95 “infomercial” with popular ER TV star, Anthony Edwards, also appeared.  Print ads and in-store events were also part of the campaign.  In London, Microsoft struck a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, owner of The Times of London newspaper, printing 1.5 million copies of a special edition and giving them all way — twice the paper’s normal run of 845,000.  Credit for the giveaway was given to Microsoft at the top of the front page in a box that read: “Windows 95 Launch — Today The Times is Free Courtesy of Microsoft.”  Also across the bottom of the front page was another Microsoft pitch for its new software: “Windows 95.  So Good Even The Times Is Complimentary.”  Inside the paper, a Microsoft supplement continued the pitch with articles about the new software, as well as advertising from Microsoft and other computer hardware and software companies and retailers.

     In New York, Microsoft’s logo colors — orange, yellow and green — were used for a special lighting of the Empire State Building.  In Toronto, a 300-foot Windows 95 banner hung from the CN Tower.  New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson wrote that the series of Microsoft promotions were “more reminiscent of the recording industry than the computer business, complete with parties and midnight store openings…”


Return on Investment

     Bill Gates and Microsoft, meanwhile, were pretty confident that their $300 million in hype would pay off and that the company would recoup its marketing and promotional outlays — and then some.Roughly 100 million com- puter users with earlier versions of Windows  would  sooner or later  upgrade to Windows 95. They knew at the time there were roughly 100 million computer users who had earlier versions of Windows who would sooner or later upgrade to Windows 95.  Then there was at least another $250 million of expected sales from add-on software that could be used with Windows 95.  And within days of the launch, millions of copies of Windows 95 were sold; more than 40 million in the first year.  Windows 95, in its day, soon became the most successful operating system ever produced.  And within three years of its introduction — as is the way of the world with computer software  — Windows 95 would be followed by new Microsoft software, Windows 98, and subsequent versions, continuing to present times.

Rolling Stones, circa 2005, from left, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ronnie Wood.
Rolling Stones, circa 2005, from left, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ronnie Wood.
     The Rolling Stones, meanwhile, were quite happy to have been of service for Windows 95, collecting some cool millions for renting out their music, and no doubt, reaping some increased sales of “Start Me Up” and the rest of their music.  Microsoft, of course, became one of the world’s most powerful corporations, and Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world.

     Other stories at this web site on the Rolling Stones include: “Paint It Black, 1966,” “Stones Gather Dollars, 1989-2008,” and “Shine a Light, 2008.”  Other stories on music and advertising include: “Big Chill Marketing, 1980s & 1990s,” “Nike & The Beatles,1987-1989,” “Madonna’s Pepsi Ad, 1989,” “Selling Janis Joplin, 1995,” “Sting & Jaguar, 1999-2001,” and “G.E.’s Hot Coal Ad, 2005.” Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:   23 November 2009
Last Update:   13 August 2014
Comments to:   jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Start Me Up, 1995,” PopHistoryDig.com
November 23, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger portrayed on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 21Aug 1980 with story line: ‘Monuments of Rock. The Rolling Stones: The Band That Refuses to Die.’
Keith Richards & Mick Jagger portrayed on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 21Aug 1980 with story line: ‘Monuments of Rock. The Rolling Stones: The Band That Refuses to Die.’
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 7 Sept 1989.
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 7 Sept 1989.

“The Media Business; Microsoft Throws Stones Into Its Windows 95 Ads,” New York Times, August 18, 1995.

Denise Gellene, “Microsoft Hopes Rolling Out Stones Will Gather Interest; Firm Wants its Windows 95 Campaign to Strike a Chord in Old and Young,”Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1995, p. D-1.

David Segal, “With Windows 95’s Debut, Microsoft Scales Heights of Hype,” Washington Post, Thursday, August 24, 1995, p. A-14.

Richard W. Stevenson, The Media Business: Advertising; Software Makes Strange Bed- fellows in Britain as Microsoft and Murdoch Team to Push Windows 95,” New York Times, Thursday, August 24, 1995, p. D-6.

Peter H. Lewis, “Snubbed at Windows Party? Log On the Internet,” New York Times, Friday, August 25, 1995 p. D-4.

Steven Levy, “Gimme Software,” Newsweek, September 4, 1995,

Mike Littwin (Baltimore Sun), “Even Mick Jagger, Stones Now Work For Bill Gates,”The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), Thursday, September 7, 1995, p. 6-B.

“Start Me Up,” Wikipedia.com, November 12, 2009.

Ken Polsson, “Chronology of Personal Com- puters,”@ IslandNet.com.

“Windows 95,” Business Week ( Int’l edition), Cover Story, July 17, 1995.

Bob Johnson, “The Launch of Windows 95,” Concentric.net.

JBev, “Hang Fire: Ranking the Stones ’80s Output (Songs 5-1),” JamesBioMagazine, September 1st, 2009.

Tony Long, “Aug. 24, 1995: Say Hello to Windows 95,” Wired, August 24, 2007.






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