The Inside Track on Priceline and Google

Priceline CMO Brett Kellner joined us this week at Google’s New York headquarters (via conference call) to chat about travel trends in vertical search, the robust health of paid search (PPC) campaigns, and integrating online and offline advertising campaigns.

Last year I predicted 2008 would the year CMOs “get search.”

Brett, who leads one of the world’s most successful online pureplays, “got search” years ago. His leadership in vertical search is one of the reasons why so many of his peers have started to see the value of search-driven branding and direct marketing campaigns.

While many CMOs are only starting to ask their VP or director of marketing how search works, Priceline has already started testing Google audio ads and Google TV ads. The early results? All good.

Brett didn’t try to sell us anything at Google. He didn’t even mention the upcoming launch of Priceline’s new vertical search innovation: Inside Track. So when broke the news about Priceline’s Inside Track “search agent” we thought Brett and William Shatner deserve a plug.

Priceline has launched Inside Track, a new tool that allows users to create a personalized airline ticket “scout.” You can see the top 50 biggest savings routes for Priceline’s Name Your Own Price.

The tool also provides analysis of best days to travel as well as notifications of increases in decreases in airline prices in a given city. This will allow users to act on price changes as they occur instead of being tied to submitted travel terms.

SEW Blogger Nathania Johnson visited Inside Track and found it not unlike a financial services Web site with stock tickers (with the exception of William Shatner greeting Nathania upon arrival).

Clicking on a city pulls up a list of destinations served by that city. Next to it are up and down arrows showing whether prices to that location are rising or falling and by how much. Very cool dashboard that shows price changes and trends by top city pair.

Here’s Brett’s official statement: “With Inside Track, delivers the kind of comprehensive market-wide price trend functionality consumers have come to expect from Web 2.0 travel applications, plus the savings that are unique to due to our elimination of booking fees on published fares and our Name Your Own Price airline ticketing service.”

For the business traveler with flexibility, vertical travel search engines now provide ultimate transparency into the yield management systems of airlines.

We really do set our own prices. Online travel is a 24/7 real-time auction – and the forerunner of Google’s paid search algorithm and Yahoo/Overture’s innovative keyword auction.

The launch of Priceline’s Inside Track comes on the heels of an announcement by Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Charter, a vertical search engine that is targeted towards high-end corporate and last-minute airline customers.

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