A Look Back at Bachmann’s Online Campaign

bachmann-firstdisplay2011Michele Bachmann’s digital campaign, like her overall run for the White House, peaked at the Ames Straw Poll and went downhill from there. Now that Bachmann has officially called it quits, here’s a look at ClickZ’s coverage of the Minnesota congresswoman’s online campaign.

July 2011: Bachmann Camp Flubs YouTube Videos
Bachmann had garnered attention for an innovative use of mobile ad targeting while running for Congress in 2010. But when a digital staffer mistakenly posted test videos to the official campaign channel on YouTube, it may have been viewed as a sign of things to come later as the campaign struggled with internal disruption and an increasing lack of focus on digital media and advertising.

August 2011: Bachmann Camp Puts Digital Boots on Ground in Iowa
The days leading up to and including the day of the Iowa Straw Poll were among the brightest for the now-defunct Bachmann campaign. In what appeared to be a first in presidential politics, she positioned five members of the digital team on the ground in Ames, Iowa for the Straw Poll. The idea was to prepare for the event, where Bachmann, an Iowa native, hoped for a big win to propel her into the more important Iowa Caucuses. The digital staffers all hailed from Campaign Solutions, the digital consulting firm handling Bachmann’s online advertising and other digital efforts.

bachmann-ames-travis2011“They want a tighter coordination with on-the-ground operations and what we’re doing on the web,” said Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist at the Republican consulting firm. Having a digital team presence in Iowa allowed them to tie together data gleaned through digital signups and mobilization efforts to the straw poll itself, and in turn use that information to inform future efforts such as email fundraising and online ad targeting.

Bachmann’s ads aimed at Iowa Straw Poll goers focused on the entertainment at her tent at the county-fair-like event, rather than on the candidate herself.

September 2011: Bachmann Ads Pounce on Perry’s Vaccine Controversy
Bachmann’s campaign – at least early on when the budget allowed for it – had news-related search efforts ready to launch at the opportune moment. In September, this approach was evident. The digital team was ready to pounce on Rick Perry with Google ads during a GOP debate during which Bachmann denounced Perry’s decision to require Texas girls to be vaccinated against the virus causing cervical cancer.

To capture potential supporters, the digital team ran ads that appeared in results for “Rick Perry HPV” – referring to Human papillomavirus. The ads linked to a sign-up page featuring the same words the tea party Republican voiced during the CNN GOP debate: “To have innocent little 12-year old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong.”

bachmann-perry-hpv-2011October 2011: Bachmann Ads Bank on Christie News
The following month, the campaign had search ads ready to go, expecting New Jersey governor Chris Christie to announce he would not run for the Republican presidential nomination. To capitalize on the news, team Bachmann ran Google search ads targeting searches for Chris Christie-related keywords. “Christie Not Running – Show Support for Michele Bachmann,” noted one version of the ads.

October 2011: Bachmann’s Digital Agency Worked With Rival GOP Candidate
ClickZ was the first to report another odd occurrence along the digital campaign trail. Bachmann’s digital agency simultaneously worked with a rival Republican presidential candidate, Buddy Roemer, as late as September. It was a rare occurrence and especially interesting considering Bachmann’s social media adviser is president of the double-dipping agency.

Becki Donatelli, a well-known Republican campaigner and longtime digital media consultant to GOP candidates and groups, was named Bachmann’s social media adviser in July. At the very same time, her firm, Campaign Solutions, was handling website development and consulting for Buddy Roemer, former Louisiana governor. The agency’s sister company, Connell Donatelli, handled online advertising for the Roemer camp.

October 2011: The Money
We should soon find out how much the Bachmann camp spent on digital through the end of 2011. What we do know is, through September of last year, her campaign spent less than half what Mitt Romney’s campaign did on online fundraising, advertising and email services – around $395,000 – with Connell Donatelli/Campaign Solutions, according to FEC reports compiled by ClickZ Politics.

In the same third quarter, Romney spent more than $895,000 with digital consulting firm Targeted Victory, much of which most likely went towards online advertising such as display, search, and video ads. The other big winners at the Iowa Caucuses, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, however, spent less than $100,000 on online ads in the same period.

As for November and December of Bachmann’s campaign run, ClickZ Politics reported little activity from her campaign. Upcoming spending reports filed with the Federal Election Commission may illuminate the campaign’s dwindling focus on digital marketing.

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