Presidential Pair-Ups: Digital Agencies Scramble for GOP Clients

Romney wants your money, Bachmann wants your email address, and Republican digital firms want their business. Mitt Romney – now an official declared presidential candidate – and Michelle Bachmann – in pre-exploratory mode – both have digital people either on staff or are working with digital agencies. Other campaigns have also chosen their digital agencies, while some agencies are still hoping for a presidential pair-up.

romney-ad6Romney and Bachmann are advertising on Facebook and Google in the hopes of drumming up money and email addresses to fuel online fundraising campaigns. At this early stage in the season, the Romney camp is a rarity in that it has an in-house digital director overseeing digital ad efforts on Facebook and elsewhere. Before joining the campaign May 1, Zac Moffatt was a partner with Republican digital shop Targeted Victory, an agency the Romney campaign plans to continue working with. Yesterday, Romney launched his campaign with a Facebook live stream of his announcement.

One of the most established digital agencies on the GOP side, Campaign Solutions, is working with Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a likely presidential candidate. Campaign Solutions and its sister agency Connell Donatelli handled online ads and other digital efforts for John McCain’s 2008 campaign and worked with Bachmann during her 2010 run for Congress.

bachmann-ad6Bachmann, who has yet to form an exploratory committee, is currently running Google and Facebook ads supporting her 2012 congressional reelection campaign, which could be one reason Campaign Solutions is also working with another possible GOP candidate, the lesser-known Buddy Roemer. Visitors to Roemer’s website have seen ads for the candidate follow them across the Web through retargeting, a common form of behavioral targeting often used by political campaigns.

To help build her Facebook supporter base, and generate email signups, Bachmann is targeting Facebook ads to conservatives and Republicans, enticing them to, “Stay connected with Michele and join over 200,000 constitutional conservatives.” The ads link to a Facebook petition asking Congress not to raise the federal debt ceiling. As his campaign is in a more advanced stage, Romney is running Facebook ads that link directly to his official campaign website’s donation page.

Even Targeted Victory has taken on some Bachmann work. The firm was paid $3,875 for online advertising by Bachmann for Congress in January, according to a recent Federal Election Commission report.

Still, as the primary season shakes out, digital agencies can be expected to settle with one presidential candidate. Engage, a Republican firm whose Partner Mindy Finn was e-strategy director for Romney during his 2008 primary run, is now working with Tim Pawlenty, another declared GOP candidate. The Pawlenty camp is testing some of Facebook’s newest ad formats with help from Engage.

Meanwhile, other Republican digital consultancies are still on the lookout for a coveted “presidential.” Swiftcurrent Strategies, whose partner Rob Willington garnered acclaim for his work on Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s election campaign, is one. According to Willington, the firm is not working with a presidential at the moment, but is in talks with some in the hopes of winning one as a client.

Some agencies have had their eyes on candidates who either decided not to run – Haley Barbour or Mitch Daniels, for example – or have yet to toss their hats in the ring. They may wish they hadn’t been so choosy, suggested Peter Pasi, EVP of Emotive, a Republican digital agency. Pasi would not say whether or not his firm has a presidential candidate client.

“There is no front runner; therefore it is illogical to choose one candidate over another in pitching your business unless you have significant ideological concerns in picking your candidate,” said Pasi, adding that some choosy agencies may have missed out on the 2012 presidential race at this point.

Though he made a point of saying he would not opine about whether or not she will run, Pasi continued, “I think everybody is waiting for Sarah Palin to announce…. They intend to aggressively pitch her.”

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