Priceline Eyes 5 Shops

NEW YORK Five finalists are competing for the creative portion of Priceline.com’s estimated $50 million-plus ad account.

They are: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners; Gotham; Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners; Mullen; and The Brooklyn Brothers, according to sources.

Final presentations began last week and continue through next week at the client’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn., according to sources. A half-dozen client executives are sitting in on the meetings, said sources. A decision could come as soon as next week.

Priceline spent about $35 million in major measured media in the first seven months of 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The full-year total for 2005 was nearly $50 million.

Butler, Shine in Sausalito, Calif., and Brooklyn Brothers in New York are independents. Interpublic Group owns Mullen in Wenham Mass., and the New York-based incumbent, Gotham, while KB+P is part of MDC Partners.

Agency and client officials either could not be reached or declined comment.

Gotham has handled creative duties since late 2002.

Mullen was one of the three finalists in this summer’s review for the $170 million ad account of Priceline rival Expedia.com [Adweek Online, Sept. 6]. Independent Doner in Southfield, Mich., won that contest.

Priceline media duties, at independent Ocean Media in Huntington Beach, Calif., are not in play.

The client, through a production consultant, began contacting agencies two months ago [Adweek Online, Aug. 21]. The finalists, culled from a longer list of shops, were briefed in late August, per sources.

The tagline for Gotham’s most recent work is, “The best way to save.” Actor and longtime client pitchman William Shatner voices both radio and TV and occasionally appears in the latter spots.

In the late 1990s, when the account was at IPG ‘s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, the former Star Trek star portrayed a retro hipster who sang old pop songs such as “Convoy” with a backup band that included Ben Folds, among others. Between stanzas, Shatner would tout Priceline’s offerings.

Priceline ranked fifth in the online travel segment with slightly more than 8 percent of the market in the first six months of 2006, up from 6.7 percent during the same period a year ago, according to consultancy PhocusWright in Sherman, Conn.

The market leader, Expedia, saw its share erode 5 percent in the first six months of 2006 versus the comparable year-ago period, though it still leads the segment at 35 percent, per PhocusWright. The No. 2 player, Travelocity.com, saw its market share increase 5 percent to 25 percent during the same period. The next two players, Orbitz.com and Travelport.com, have about 15 and 8.3 percent of the market, respectively. Their numbers were flat compared to the year-ago period.