RealTime IT News

priceline.com Installs New Chief Marketing Officer

Name-your-own-price specialist priceline.com Tuesday said it has promoted Brett Keller to the post of chief marketing officer, a post newly vacated by Michael McCadden, who will leave the firm at year's end.

Keller previously served as vice president of marketing at the Norwalk, Conn.-based firm since his arrival in 1999. Keller has been responsible for the creation and promotion of the outfit's Web-based store, in addition to overseeing customer segmentation, online marketing, database development and management and online advertising sales.

Jeffery H. Boyd, priceline.com president and chief operating officer, gave Keller praise in a public statement.

"Brett is an Internet and priceline.com veteran whose work and guidance has been key in enabling priceline.com to make significant and continuous improvements to its Web site and customer experience, and to build a highly effective Internet marketing presence," Boyd said. "With our evolving mix of online and offline marketing, Brett has the experience and the skills to continue the growth of priceline.com's brand and business."

Richard S. Braddock, priceline.com chairman and chief executive officer, credited McCadden with beefing up the firm's brand recognition to consumers, and aiding it through a time when the travel industry took harsh hits across the board after the events of September 11.

On November 1, priceline.com reported reported pro forma net income for the third quarter of $6.3 million, or 3 cents per share (EPS). And, while analysts at FirstCall/Thomson FN had estimated Priceline would only hit an EPS of a penny, COO Boyd said results could have been far better if not for the slowdown in the travel industry brought about by Sept. 11.

Worse still, the company later allowed that it had shelled out some $10 million in airfare refunds since the terrorist attacks. In a 10-Q quarterly filing with the SEC, the company also said that its economic forecasting is "very challenging" and that although demand for airline tickets has substantially recovered following the events of Sept. 11, ticket sales have lagged due in part to lower average offer prices.

To be sure, priceline.com's rivals in the online travel shopping sector reported drubbings at the hands of consumers frightened of flight as well: Expedia's sales were cut by more than half in the week following Sept. 11; Orbitz cut costs and laid off staff, including marketing expenses by as much as 50 percent for the rest of the year; Lowestfare.com laid off 460 call center employees who handled airline reservations and ticketing; and BizTravel.com shut down completely.