William Shatner's Priceline Negotiator will die in a new 30-second commercial, set to begin airing on Monday.
In the new TV spot, the Negotiator, who encourages customers to use Priceline.com for discount rates on travel related items, rescues desperate vacationers from a bus losing its balance on a bridge.
"Save yourselves – some money," Shatner says, giving a passenger his cellphone as he and the bus finally fall over the bridge and into a creek, followed by a dramatic explosion, The Associated Press reported.
"I'm in grief mode," the actor told the press on a phone interview on Wednesday. "It's not the first time I've had an iconic character die off." Shatner's popular Star Trek character, Captain James T. Kirk, also died in the line of duty. But why kill the Priceline Negotiator?
"The challenge is harder to get people's attention than it used to be. ... So we decided to do something really over the top to get the message across," Christopher Soder, CEO of Priceline.com North America, told AP.
Shatner has advertised for Priceline for 14 years, but Soder told AP the company needed a change to reflect broader goals. Priceline also offers discounted prices for booking hotels in 140 countries, something many consumers don't know, and Shatner's Negotiator does not mention it.
"It's a tough decision, but the bottom line is Priceline had to do it," Peter Sealey, adjunct professor at the Claremont Graduate University's school of management, told AP. "They're changing their business model from a name-your-price model to a fixed-price approach."
"Had he been less effective, he could have been allowed to fade away," Sealey added. "I don't know if I would have gone as far as the bus exploding."
Soder is hoping the death of the Emmy-winning actor on the TV spots will not upset fans.
"We certainly hope not. We had a great, long association with Mr. Shatner," Soder told AP."I didn't mean to use the past tense. He's still under contract with us."