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FORMER STAR TREKKER BEAMS BACK INTO PRICELINE ADS

William Shatner Hypes the E-Commerce Site's Technology

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Priceline.com returned to TV advertising Monday after a year's hiatus with a campaign featuring
William Shatner is back for PriceLine.
actor William Shatner, the brand's iconic spokesman, touting the online travel discounter's technology.

Mr. Shatner has not been seen in TV ads for Priceline since January 2001, although he continued doing radio voice-overs for the online auction site. In his last TV appearance, Mr. Shatner showed up as a self-parodying lounge singer in Priceline's quirky "Troubadour" campaign. That effort was created by Priceline's former agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.

Capt. Kirk
While Priceline severed ties with the agency earlier this year, the company kept the actor, who is best known as Capt. James T. Kirk on the famed sci-fi franchise Star Trek.

"From a 'futuristic' standpoint, we wanted someone who could cross age groups. ... He's a worldwide name brand," Brett Keller, Priceline's chief marketing officer, said of Mr. Shatner. "It's been a year and it just feels right bring Shatner back on."

The campaign was created

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in-house and uses radio, cable TV and online advertising. The effort highlights Priceline's use of technology to deliver travel services quicker and cheaper than its competitors, namely Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz.

"We use technology and a database of information that the airlines use to sell their own seats and it can't be accessed by outside parties," Mr. Keller said.

Budget not specified
While Mr. Keller declined to specify the budget for the effort, he said it was in the multimillion-dollar range. From January to June of this year, Priceline spent $13.1 million in measured media in the U.S., according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. It spent $39 million in 2001 and $92.6 million in 2000.

"We are definitely being more judicious with our marketing dollars, but also when 9/11 hit, we pulled back from TV to a much more flexible format -- radio."

Subsequent executions will include dedicated spots on hotel, vacation and airline products. Media buying is handled by Ocean Media, Huntington Beach, Calif.; planning duties are shared by the agency and Priceline. Forthcoming radio and print executions will introduce specific offers in various markets.

Enjoying the ride
Mr. Shatner, who has been associated with Priceline for nearly four years since signing on during the dot-com boom, hasn't reaped much from his stock options. But he said he's still enjoying the ride.

"With my credentials as a hypothetical man of the future, we thought that showing the computers that are being used by Priceline in some sort of dramatic way would be fun." As for his lounge-singing days, he said, "It was risky but it seemed like a good adventure. ... I could have been laughed off the planet."

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