8:04am PT by THR staff
William Shatner Returns as Priceline's Negotiator in New Ad (Video)
Seven months after stepping down as Priceline's "Negotiator," William Shatner returns in a 30-second ad debuting Thursday on TV and the web, The Associated Press reports.
Last January, the actor retired from a 14-year run as the travel site's celebrity pitchman; the company sent him off in a blaze of glory, so to speak, as Shatner's Negotiator -- having rescued passengers on a runaway bus -- plunges off a cliff to his purported death. Not so: the new commercial shows him alive and well, surfboard in hand, as he stands on a beach and stares out at the ocean, according to the AP.
"You've been busy for a dead man. After you jumped ship in Bangkok, I thought I'd lost you," says a guy played by actor Allan Lewis, to which the 81-year-old Shatner replies: "Surfing is my life now."
Bret Keller, Priceline's chief marketing officer, tells the AP that both Priceline and Shatner did not know whether -- and how -- the Negotiator would resurface. "We had such a positive response to the ad where we appeared to throw him over a cliff that we wanted to find a creative way to bring him back," he said.
When the company officially dropped Shatner in a Jan. 23 commercial, CEO Christopher Soder explained that it was pursuing a new advertising strategy.
As for Shatner, who's made a considerable profit from stock options as Priceline spokesperson, he said of the decision to let him go: "I knew it was a mistake, absolutely."
Last week, the company's stock slid about 17 percent -- or more than $100 -- amid financial setbacks brought on by the economic crisis in Europe; shares fell further Monday when Google announced it had acquired the Frommer's travel guides.
Watch the spot below: