Microsoft Hopes “Ray of Light” Makes XP Shine

Microsoft this week launched ads in support of its upcoming Windows XP operating system, which the company has called its largest marketing effort to date.

The television spot is intended to convey the freedom that comes with using the new product. The ads show people flying across placid meadows and into the sky while Madonna’s Grammy award-winning “Ray of Light” plays in the background.

Other shots show people using Windows XP, and reading e-mail and watching video using Windows XP. Copy reads, “You soar. Yes you can.”

According to sources, that tagline replaced “Prepare to fly,” which either Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft or its ad agency, McCann-Erickson Worldgroup, pulled following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The ads debuted during ABC’s “Monday Night Football” and will likely run through Microsoft’s Oct. 25 unveiling of the software at a gala event in New York City’s Times Square, featuring concerts by as-yet-unnamed pop stars.

It is unknown how much the company paid Madonna for rights to her song, or whether the Material Girl will be appearing at the launch event, but Microsoft evidently is sparing no expense in promoting Windows XP. The ads come as part of the $200 million cash bundle that the software giant has reportedly allocated to advertising, marketing and joint sales agreements for the operating system.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has licensed a popular song for use in its commercials. The effort to feature a song by Madonna calls to mind the company’s earlier campaign for Windows 95, which saw Microsoft hand over a reported $14 million to the Rolling Stones, for the rights to “Start Me Up.” That song appeared in television spots in reference to Windows 95’s new “Start” menu button.

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