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Priceline Contacts Shops

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NEW YORK Online travel booking company Priceline.com has begun contacting agencies about its creative chores, now handled by Interpublic Group's Gotham, sources said.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based client in recent years has spent $40-50 million annually in major measured media, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The tagline of Gotham's most recent Priceline work is, "The best way to save."

Gotham in New York, which has handled the business since late 2002, is expected to defend. The agency had no immediate comment.

Priceline is calling agencies through "production consultant" Paul Mavis, according to a source.

A representative of Priceline would say only, "Gotham is our agency of record. I have no further comment."

Actor William Shatner remains the voice of Priceline in both radio and TV ads, and, from time to time, still appears in spots.

In the late 1990s, when the account was at Interpublic's Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, the former Star Trek star portrayed a retro-chic hipster covering pop songs with a backing band that included Ben Folds, among others. Between lyrics, Shatner would tout Priceline's offerings. The actor was lampooning his penchant for recording albums of decidedly offbeat takes on popular songs.

Planning and buying duties at independent Ocean Media in Huntington Beach, Calif., are not in play, per sources.

One of Priceline's main competitors, Expedia.com, is in the final stages of its own review. Doner, Mullen and TBWA\Chiat\Day are finalists in the pitch for Expedia's $170 million business. Incumbent Deutsch/LA is not participating in that contest.