Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners' long tenure on Priceline.com has ended.
The travel site is in the midst of a creative review, and after initially participating in the process, Butler, Shine has opted out. The brand spends more than $40 million in media annually, according to Kantar Media.
"We feel that focusing on current clients, new clients and our new business pipeline is a better use of resources," explained Greg Stern, CEO at the Sausalito, Calif., shop, which has worked on the brand since late 2006. "BSSP and Priceline have had a long, successful relationship—far longer than the average client-agency tenure. We wish them nothing but success in the future."
Butler, Shine created the "Priceline Negotiator" campaign, which has won two Effie awards, including an Effie for sustained success this month.
Priceline chief marketing officer Brett Keller described Butler, Shine as an "outstanding partner," adding, "They've got a lot of great talent there. We would have loved to have seen them participate, but we completely respect and understand their decision."
The agency's exit came just before Priceline selected seven semifinalists to visit, according to Keller. The CMO identified the shops as Arnold in Boston; Leo Burnett in Chicago; The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.; Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco; and the New York offices of BBDO, Droga5 and Grey.
Each shop, Keller said, has built compelling, long-lasting platforms for brands. As for what he's looking for going into the visits, he said, "There's so much brand misattribution in our space that we have to have something that really establishes us for who we are" and "we've got to have a nice cultural fit."
As for the future creative approach, Keller is keeping an open mind. The actors in the current campaign, Bill Shatner (aka The Negotiator) and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (The Negotiator's Daughter), remain under contract, but Keller leaves it to the contenders decide how much or how little they are used.
Priceline doesn't want to "force the agencies who are participating to do anything that they don't believe in," Keller added. "What we will ask them to do as we move through the process is to bring forward ideas that they believe will move the brand."
Based on the visits, the company next month will narrow the field to a handful of finalists. The search, which Ark Advisors in New York is managing, is expected to conclude in late August or early September.