Ad of the Day: Priceline Goes for Seriously Awkward Humor in First Ads From BBDO

Jokes about incest and Eastern European adoptions gone wrong

When Priceline wrapped up its first agency review in a decade by sending its business to BBDO last fall, we predicted it would mark a departure for a brand long defined by William Shatner's campy "Negotiator" character. 

We didn't realize how dramatic that break would be.

BBDO's first work for Priceline launches on TV this Sunday during the Super Bowl pre-game with a trio of spots covering a full range of disasters caused by a failure to make last-minute travel plans. Shatner returns—to narrate—but in every other way the work is about as far from previous efforts by Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners as it could possibly be. 

In "Cousins," the discount travel company helps a young career woman avoid a situation that could have turned a fun night into a painfully awkward morning after.


The new marketing push isn't focused on Paris dream vacations destined to fill Facebook photo albums. "We took a hard look at today's behavioral trends, and they reveal travel's core truth: Travelers take more trips to visit family in places like Rome, Georgia, than trips of a lifetime to places like Rome, Italy," says Priceline CEO Paul Hennessey.

"We feel like we nailed the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of missing any trip," says BBDO executive creative director Chris Beresford-Hill in explaining the concept. "It could happen to anyone." 

The message is that using Priceline makes such scenarios less likely. 

A second ad, "Baby," concerns a process that many hopeful would-be parents around the world take quite seriously—finding a child to adopt. That often involves overseas travel, and in this case, a Priceline trip helps one couple avoid a very unusual baby indeed. 


The third ad in this trilogy of unfortunate events might be the least shocking: It concerns Social Security fraud involving one naive and impressionable "Nana."


"Since it was a strategic shift and we are a new agency, we wanted it to feel like a brand new campaign," BBDO ecd Dan Lucey tells Adweek. "But we kept [Shatner] because he's a great narrator and it made sense to have him present in some form; he is still greatly associated with Priceline."

Beresford-Hill adds, "We're moving away from 'The Negotiator,' but if we'd been casting from scratch for voiceover, it would have been hard to find anyone better. The very fact that Shatner is telling the story automatically makes it interesting." 

The campaign will also feature a series of microtargeted Facebook videos. "If your mother's birthday is coming up, you might get served a fake news story about the horrible consequences of not visiting your mother," Lucey says. 

You might also get shamed for taking duckface selfies after skipping Spring Break.


The consequences in the 27 videos now live on YouTube range from a man losing all his real and fake friends after failing to meet his brother's new baby to a set of parents punishing their neglectful son-in-law by moving in with him. (There will be bunkbeds.)

"At the end of the day," Beresford-Hill says, "our goal is to make the audience laugh with us. Hopefully the campaign makes everyone feel what we feel." 

In our case, that feeling was: Oh good God, no! 


Agency: BBDO New York


Titles: "Cousins," "Baby," "Nana"

Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide: David Lubars

Chief Creative Officer, BBDO New York: Greg Hahn

Executive Creative Director: Chris Beresford-Hill

Executive Creative Director: Dan Lucey

Senior Copywriter (Cousins, Baby): Mike Motch

Senior Art Director (Cousins, Baby): Austin Mankey