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Duke band marches for new Xbox advertisement

Although they call themselves DUMB, the Duke University Marching Band just made a smart move.

The ensemble is $6,000 richer after cutting a deal with Microsoft Corp. to appear in a new advertisement

The promotion, part of the national roll-out for Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system, was filmed at last Saturday's home football game against Georgia Tech.

After a 90-minute rehearsal the previous day, the band marched into a circular formation during the halftime show. It held the formation for a few moments while a Microsoft crew took pictures and filmed video footage.

DUMB Director Jeffrey Au-currently in his first year running the program-said the offer to participate came as a surprise.

Au initially received a call from Microsoft asking if he was interested in putting the band in formation for $4,000. Even at the lower fee, he said, it would have been a nice increase for the group's budget.

But soon after, he said another band dropped out of the campaign and Microsoft quickly increased its offer.

"I was really surprised when I heard what they [first] wanted to pay-and I was even more surprised when they upped it," Au said with a laugh.

He noted that when he was in graduate school, his band did an advertisement for Country Music Television, Inc., but the compensation was only $1,000.

Duke is one of five or six marching bands across the country taking part in the Microsoft campaign.

The $6,000 DUMB received will go toward new instrument cases and possibly recording equipment. Au declined to say what percentage of the band's total budget the funds represent.

Microsoft representatives asked the band to form a shape with the roman numerals one, six and eight around a circle during the halftime show. Au said he did not know the symbol's meaning.

In mathematics, the hexadecimal 168 equates to the decimal value 360, a possible link to Xbox 360. A Microsoft promotional website, www.hex168.com, alludes to the special properties of "the hex" and its amazing energies. The site encourages consumers to submit any photos or videos of "the hex" for a chance at free Xbox 360s or a trip to the Xbox launch party.

DUMB sousaphone player Jessie Eisenmenger, a sophomore, was a bit taken aback by the symbol. Microsoft representatives passed out promotional stickers the day of the shoot with the band's roman numeral formation situated around a hexagon in the middle.

"It was kinda weird," Eisenmenger said. "We didn't know what it meant."

No matter how successful the campaign is, she noted that the band is just happy to have been a part of it.

"We could definitely use the money," Eisenmenger explained.

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