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‘Start Me Up’: The $3 Million Anthem That Launched Microsoft’s Windows 95

Legend tells that Bill Gates paid something like $14 million to the Rolling Stones to use their song “Start Me Up” in the very first Microsoft television commercial, created by Wieden+Kennedy.

It was August 1995. The commercial was for Windows 95, and the story goes that Bill Gates got the idea from the “start button” feature on the launch screen. Gates was said to have personally asked Mick Jagger how much it would cost to use the song. Jagger, being a rock rebel to his core, tossed out a number in the millions, hoping to dissuade Gates.

We now know that it was actually $3 million, according to now retired Microsoft chief operating officer Bob Herbold. And it was well worth the cost to launch a campaign that made Microsoft a household name at a time when only 3 percent of consumers even knew the company made software.

Whatever the legend tells, the fact still remains: Because of that recognizable song, the Windows 95 campaign was the first grand celebration of the Microsoft brand, and still holds up as one of their most memorable.