‘Agent Shatner’ Makes Priceline TV Debut

CHICAGO Butler Shine Stern & Partners positions Priceline’s longtime pitchman, William Shatner, as a secret agent negotiator finding the best travel fares in its first work for the client since winning the account late last year.

Television spots breaking this week take their cue from campy 1960s spy shows. Each spot begins with Shatner taking a call at his secret lair on a blue “Price Line” phone. He gets an assignment—such as arranging a trip to Maui—and declares, “I’m on it.” In one spot, he seductively convinces a hotel desk clerk to lower her room rates, showcasing the site’s “Name your price” feature. “Sometimes doing the wrong thing can feel so right,” Shatner purrs. “We both know you’ve got empty rooms up there.”

In another spot, he helps save money on a family-package vacation by entering the house and Tasering the dad. “You’ll thank me for this later,” Shatner says coolly while taking over the computer. The campaign’s tagline is, “No one deals like we do.”

“We really are the only ones in the space that can talk about these types of deals,” said Priceline CMO Brett Keller. “What makes us unique is our ability to reach out to travel suppliers and negotiate on behalf of the consumer.”

Shatner has been Priceline’s spokesperson for nearly 10 years. His first effort on behalf of the client was a series of self-mocking commercials in 1998 in which he sang the praises of Priceline in between verses of well-known pop tunes. Later campaigns depicted Shatner showing off Priceline’s “super-computer” technology and interviewing people in grocery stores and malls about comparison-shopping. He was reduced to cameo roles in more recent campaigns.

The independent Sausalito, Calif., agency won creative duties on the account in October after a review. Media duties are handled by Ocean Media, an independent agency in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Shatner’s presence for Priceline has survived several agency changes. He was originally cast when the account was at Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. Since 2002, the account was at independent Gotham in New York; Shatner appeared in several ads from that agency as well. The tagline of Gotham’s previous campaign was, “The best way to save.”

“We’ve reached a point where Bill is really an intrinsic part of the brand,” Keller said. “We thought of it as a risk not to use him and not to use him in a more visible format.”

Priceline spent about $50 million on advertising through November of last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.