When Priceline.com decided to try to reinvigorate the brand, it studied the data: Travelers are taking shorter, more frequent trips, and many are booking them on mobile at the last-minute. Their customers are heading to Rome, Georgia more frequently to that other Rome where Vatican tours are available. The data called for a streamlined site and app emphasizing "deals near me," pay at the hotel, and easier-to-book products.
Priceline.com has revamped its website, apps, and marketing, transforming its television advertising pitchman William Shatner from The Negotiator to a faceless narrator based in part on changing traveler behavior.
The new online and offline advertising campaign includes Facebook mobile targeting that’s personalized as consumers “learn of their friends’ life moments from status changes,” Priceline.com states, and a Super Bowl pre-game ad.
The integrated campaign, Whatever’s On The Line, Priceline, began February 1 on Facebook and was developed by BBDO. It relegates Shatner to providing voiceovers, without a cameo role, in a series of five TV ads, as he imparts his wisdom and humor on the issue of “to go, or not to go.”
Shatner, who has been Priceline.com’s most visible face since even before the dot-com bubble burst, got his The Negotiator character killed off four years ago when the company deemphasized Name Your Own Price bidding, and Shatner was subsequently brought back to hawk the less-complicated-to-book Express Deals.
Shatner’s visible presence in the TV ads is now gone, and he is also missing in action from the newly redesigned Priceline.com homepage.
The new homepage (at right) emphasizes Express Deals, which provide discounts without having to go through Name Your Own Price bidding. The latter takes up real estate beneath the Express Deals.
The idea is to deliver a more streamlined and mobile service in a bow to evolving consumer behavior in the form of shorter but more frequent trips that are often booked last-minute on smartphones.
As you can see from Priceline.com’s homepage a month ago, on January 2, 2016 (courtesy of the WayBack Machine), Shatner was the leading man and actress Kaley Cuoco was prominent too. Cuoco is entirely gone from the new Priceline.com TV advertising campaign although she’s still under contract.
In April, Priceline.com brought in CEO Paul Hennessy, who had been the chief marketing officer at sister company Booking.com, to revamp Priceline.com, and Brett Keller was recently promoted from chief marketing officer to chief operating officer.
To revamp Priceline.com, the company studied the analytics about changing traveler behavior. Both average travelers and heavy users (12 to 15 trips per year) book 75 percent of their trips on Priceline.com for same-day or next-day check-in, the company found. eMarketer projects that 51 percent of U.S. travelers will book their travel on mobile devices in 2016.
Along those lines, Priceline.com redesigned its mobile apps, which default to same-day hotel deals. A Find Deals Near Me feature in Priceline.com apps presents hotel options based on the user’s location.
Like Booking.com and rival Expedia.com, Priceline.com has also introduced pay-at-the-hotel booking options to supplement pre-paid bookings. That is another bow to traveler convenience.
“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,” Hennessy says. “A drastically improved product initiative and an expansive increase in available properties, followed by a complete site and app refresh, has put our hotel, rental car and air partners’ content in the spotlight so that no matter what kind of trip you need to take, we’ve put it on the line for you.”
Below is an example of the new TV ads, some of which will begin to run on television February 7 before the Super Bowl, while the video at the bottom of this post is one of 27 or so that will be targeted to Facebook users when their friends’ status update changes in a relevant way.
One of the television spots, featuring former National Basketball stars Latrell Sprewell and David Robinson, will air during NBA All-Star Weekend February 13 and 14.
Separate from the five-ad TV advertising blitz, the 27 YouTube-only videos that are to be served up on Facebook are fashioned as Onion-like breaking news updates that tell stories about tragedies that befell people who thought booking hotel rooms was too expensive.
Shatner’s relegation to doing voiceovers in Priceline.com TV advertising isn’t totally tied to need to eliminate The Negotiator and streamline the user experience with less complicated products. Nor is it out of the question that Shatner could make a triumphant return, as he has before.
Here’s an example of one of the spots in the five-part TV adverting blitz, and beneath that is one of the videos that will be targeted at different Facebook users:
And one of Priceline.com’s Facebook-directed videos:
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Photo credit: Priceline.com has a new series of five TV ads, and missing from them are the usual Priceline.com ad stars William Shatner and Kaley Cuoco, although an unseen Shatner does the voiceovers. Priceline.com