Shatner Back as Priceline Shill

William Shatner is back in the captain’s seat as Priceline.com’s pitchman, following a yearlong hiatus from the Norwalk, Conn. e-commerce player.

The name-your-own-price e-tailer said it had resumed using the former “Star Trek” celeb to voice a series of radio spots that promote Priceline.com’s travel products.

Terms were not disclosed of Shatner’s contract, which expired in October and was renewed earlier this year.

Unlike Priceline’s earlier TV and radio spots, the new ads play somewhat off Shatner’s background in sci-fi — with the actor describing the benefits of the site’s travel-discount computer, in his characteristic dramatic (some might say hammy) enunciation.

“While the other online travel sites merely offer lists of fares, the Priceline.com supercomputer lets you name your own price,” Shatner says in the ads. “It’s actually programmed to go to work for you, getting you the best possible price. Yours. The Priceline.com supercomputer: a model of online travel technology.”

The ads also mark a departure for the site in that they introduce a new tagline, intoned by a computer voice: “Priceline.com: I think, therefore, I save.” (Previous spots generally favored the tagline “name your own price.”)

“Given the futuristic side of William Shatner, the new campaign is a natural and lends itself to both radio and TV treatments,” said Priceline.com Chief Marketing Officer Brett Keller. “It’s fun, it cuts through. It also focuses squarely on what differentiates Priceline.com in today’s travel industry.”

In 1999, Priceline debuted TV ads designed by Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos that drew on Shatner’s 1968 spoken word album, “The Transformed Man.” In the campaign, dubbed “Troubadour,” Shatner portrayed a campy beat poet/lounge act covering songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Radio spots during the same campaign, also featuring Shatner, took a less offbeat stance.

In December of 2000, however, the company debuted a new TV spot featuring only a picture of Shatner. At the time, it denied rumors it was shopping to replace the actor, who had stirred up controversy earlier in the year when he admitted that he had never actually used the company’s services.

A month later, Priceline introduced new television and radio ads developed by Boston-based Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, and featuring the voice of “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker.

For the moment, though, it appears that Shatner is not only back in good stead at Priceline, but that he’s also become a user.

“Over the years, my relationship with priceline.com has broadened, from a celebrity spokesman to a customer who has enjoyed the significant savings benefits of Priceline.com,” Shatner said through a representative. “Priceline.com is a company that delivers real value to consumers, and I’m honored to continue representing Priceline.com.”

Priceline.com isn’t disclosing details of its campaigns in other media, though Shatner’s contract includes stipulations for television ads, and the site added that it is working on an online campaign.

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