Priceline – A Dot Com Odyssey

Down but not out, Priceline.com, which just last week slashed its workforce and refocused its business on the basics, launched a new advertising campaign claiming that in three years of operation it has sold six million airline tickets and vowing to “See you in 2001.”

And yes, there are pictures of William Shatner, the former Star Trek actor whose status as a celeb spokesperson for Priceline helped begin some of the company’s troubles when the media jumped on reports that he doesn’t use the service.

The new holiday ad campaign for the name-your-own-price service kicks off today on national TV and runs through Dec. 31. It claims the company has sold six million airline tickets, two million hotel room nights and 1.5 million rental car days.

“The new ad is really about three things,” said Priceline.com President and CEO Daniel H. Schulman. “It’s a fun thank-you to customers who made it possible for us to sell almost 10 million combined tickets, hotel room nights and rental car days in less than three years of operation. It’s a celebration of our 2000 ad campaign, which put priceline.com over the top as the #1 most-recognized e-commerce brand according to independent research. And it’s a reminder that we’ll be ready in 2001 to help you save money on your airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more.”

The new ads are framed by photos of William Shatner’s “Troubadour” ad series and are accompanied by a Jimi Hendrix-like rendition of the classical music theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The distinctive guitar track was provided by Page Hamilton, formerly with the band Helmet. Spending on the campaign was not disclosed.

Last week Priceline said it will continue with its name-your-own-price service for airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, home finance, long distance and new cars, but will indefinitely postpone the introduction of its business-to-business, term life and cell phone services and put a halt to efforts to expand into Japan.

After today’s announcement, the company’s stock was up about 10 percent, at $2.68 in early trading. At one time it traded at more than $104. Last fall its advertising was called into question, revenues failed to meet analysts expectations and consumer complaints resulted in a state investigation.

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