William Shatner fans rejoice. After suffering a violent death in January, Priceline's (PCLN) beloved ad pitchman, the Negotiator, was resurrected this week.
In a press release the company announced that "after plunging off a bridge to his presumed demise, the Priceline Negotiator, aka William Shatner, has miraculously been found alive in a new priceline.com TV spot."
In the 30-second spot, which debuted Thursday, a priceline.com agent finds him on a beach, suit pants rolled up, holding a surfboard. He tells Shatner his mission isn't over. "Surfing is my life now," Shatner responds and works in the company plug — "even faster and easier ways to save you money on hotels, flights and cars" — before running off to catch massive a wave.
Why did the discount travel company ever get rid of one of the most successful spokesmen in the history of advertising? According to an Ad Age article from January, Shatner, 81, was very closely tied to the Negotiator in viewers' minds, and the company wanted to shift focus from the name-your-own-price model to a fixed-price one. Shatner served as pitchman for six years and has appeared in Priceline spots for 14 years. (See Daily Ticker's video: Priceline Kills Off 'The Negotiator': William Shatner in 'Grief Mode,' but $600M Richer.)
The Importance of Icons
The reappearance illustrates the importance of the company spokesperson. Whether they use celebrities, cartoon characters, talking animals or their own CEOs, companies know a likable spokesperson translates to positive brand awareness.
Progressive's Flo, the Geico Gecko, the Allstate Mayhem Man, talking M&M's. These offbeat (some might argue annoying) brand personalities are essential to corporate marketing strategies. They serve to grab consumers' attention and change the way people think about the brand, says Ken Wilbur, an assistant professor of marketing at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. Insurance companies in particular have been mining the quirky character vein in their commercials over the past few years. Car insurance, after all, isn't synonymous with fun — or even a tangible product for that matter — so they have to capture viewers' attention somehow.
How does Shatner stack up against other famous ad pitchmen? We took a look at some other notable spokescharacters who have been interrupting your TV shows to find out how people feel about them. We used E-Poll Market Research, a firm that measures consumer sentiment of corporate characters and celebrities, to get the numbers. (They're in order of most likable to least.)
In terms of positive brand awareness, you can't do better than the talking M&M's. They've got the highest product character Q Score, which is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company or celebrity. "They're the high-water mark," says Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company. "The product is highly appealing; it cuts across every demographic segment and it has that universal transcendent appeal."
E-Score: 62% awareness, 66% appeal, 3% dislike
(E-Poll says the average corporate character has a 28% awareness, 37% appeal and 10% dislike score. The film personality and actor average has a 23% awareness and 54% appeal.)
E-Score: 26% awareness, 58% appeal, 12% dislike
William Shatner as the Priceline Negotiator
As the Priceline Negotiator, Shatner doesn't notch stellar marks in terms of awareness and appeal (23% of survey respondents were familiar with him, while 37% rated him positively). But as Shatner the film and TV actor, he fares well.
E-Score: 71% awareness, 52% appeal, 5% dislike
'Flo' from Progressive
In a USA Today article last month Progressive's CEO pronounced Flo as an "essential" part of the company's $500 million-plus annual marketing effort to attract consumers. (Flo was inadvertently involved in a PR-social media blunder this week that may threaten her beloved image.)
E-Score: 49% awareness, 44% appeal, 14% dislike
After 11 years as the voice of the Aflac duck comedian Gilbert Gottfried was fired last year for making insensitive jokes on Twitter about the earthquake that devastated Japan. After a national search that involved much-publicized auditions to find just the right quack, a new voice was found in 2011 in Daniel McKeague.
E-Score: 41% awareness, 42% appeal, 11% dislike
E-Score: 54% awareness, 45% appeal, 10% dislike
E-Score: 5% awareness, 29% appeal, 35% dislike
Which lovable — or irksome — spokescharacters did we miss? The Coca-Cola polar bears, the Capital One Vikings? Tell us in the comments section below.
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- William Shatner
- William Shatner
- William Shatner