ricksantorum-helpwinnomination1

Santorum Spent $1M on Web Ads, but Super PACs Attacked

  |  April 12, 2012   |  Comments

UPDATE: Super PACs like pro-Mitt Romney group Restore Our Future spent online in primary states to dampen Santorum's surge in polls.

UPDATE: The Santorum campaign may have spent much more than 5 percent of its overall ad budget online, after all. Because the campaign has not filed all of its Federal Election Commission spending reports yet, it is unclear what the final tally will be; however, at this stage it appears closer to 30 percent of the reported ad budget was spent online - mainly on search advertising for fundraising. ClickZ will have a final tally and approximate percentage of budget when available.

ricksantorum-helpwinnomination1Rick Santorum's campaign spent no money on online ads before last week's Wisconsin GOP primary, which turned out to be his last chance to prove himself as a viable contender. In fact, while the campaign spent around $1 million on ads all together online, it may have been better characterized by the Super PAC ads attacking him there.

Super PACs like pro-Mitt Romney group Restore Our Future dropped nearly that same amount online in key primary states as Santorum surged in the polls. In fact, the pro-Romney group spent around $800,000 on web ads in to attack the former Pennsylvania senator in Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The Democratic Governors Association and NARAL Pro-Choice America also chipped in a few thousand bucks to slam the conservative Republican online.

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The Santorum camp did run web ads, though. Ads on Facebook were targeted geographically to voters, display ads ran in ad networks for fundraising, and splashy ads were placed on local sites in primary states to help get out the vote. The campaign also geo-targeted Facebook posts to people in specific primary states, so as not to bother people outside voting states about going to the polls. All in all, digital ad spending was minimal though - only around 5 percent or less of the total ad budget, according to sources familiar with the campaign. [Please see update above.]

Santorum also partook in what's become a trend this election season - hawking campaign tchotchkes and apparel in exchange for donations. In Santorum's case, the fundraising gimmick came in the form of sweater vests, logo-emblazoned versions of his signature bare armed uniform.

"Perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives, this vest is a great way to show your support for Rick," read the Santorum website. "It's 100% cotton, made in the USA, comes in grey, and is yours for your contribution of $100 or more. Don't let sleeves slow you down - donate today!"

The 2012 election has also been a big one for produced web videos, and other GOP primary campaigns including Romney's and Tim Pawlenty's nearly-forgotten campaign have excelled at cranking out quality videos. The Santorum camp, on the other hand, wasn't exactly known for many popular web videos. He did have some web hits, though - namely the Rombo ad in which a machine gun wielding Romney attacks Santorum. One of the most watched Santorum related videos didn't come from the campaign at all; it was a pop-song homage featuring the teenage female stylings of First Love crooning lyrics like "We've got a man who understands that god gave the bill of rights."

The Rombo arsenal included Restore Our Future ads for RickFacts.com, a site that promised to expose the truth about Santorum's record in the Senate. The site - which now redirects to RestoreOurFuture.com - featured TV ads from the group that had been running in Michigan and Arizona heading into the GOP primaries in those states, as well as spots seen in other primary states.

Ron Paul's campaign also went on the attack early on, running web ads calling Santorum a "Serial Hypocrite" in the hopes of siphoning New Hampshire primary votes away from him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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