Priceline Eyes Butler, Shine

NEW YORK Priceline.com is in final negotiations with Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, an independent agency in Sausalito, Calif., about handling creative chores on its ad account, per sources.

Interpublic Group’s Gotham in New York; MDC Partners’ Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York; IPG’s Mullen in Wenham, Mass.; and independent The Brooklyn Brothers in New York also made final presentations, according to sources.

Priceline in Norwalk, Conn., spent almost $40 million in major measured media in the first eight months of 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The full-year total for 2005 was nearly $50 million.

Priceline’s media duties, at independent Ocean Media in Huntington Beach, Calif., were not in play.

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.

The tagline for Gotham’s most recent work is, “The best way to save.” 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 actor portrayed a retro hipster who sang old pop songs such as “Convoy” with a backup band. Between stanzas, Shatner would tout Priceline’s offerings.

Priceline ranked fifth in the global online travel segment with slightly more than 8 percent 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 global 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.