Romney Still Leads GOP Field in Online Ad Spending

Mitt Romney is investing more than his Republican presidential rivals in online ad and digital media spending. With Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee hitting the $5 million mark in online ad related spending alone, Romney has spent more than twice as much as Michele Bachmann on online advertising and other digital efforts, and several hundred thousand dollars more than Herman Cain.

Through September, 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. Bachmann’s campaign spent less than half that on online fundraising, advertising and email services – around $395,000 – with Connell Donatelli/Campaign Solutions, according to FEC reports compiled by ClickZ Politics.

ClickZ yesterday reported that Connell Donatelli, whose founder serves as Bachmann’s social media adviser, had been simultaneously working with lesser known presidential hopeful Buddy Roemer through September, a rarity among political agencies.

Another GOP frontrunning campaign, that of Rick Perry, made a $213,200 payment to an LLC called 2012 Election Digital for web services, along with $12,375 paid to online fundraising platform company Kimbia. Indeed, some campaigns are more transparent than others when it comes to reporting media buys and other consulting spending.

For instance, Newt Gingrich’s campaign has reported spending more than $622,000 on “Website Management,” mainly with two Austin-based firms sharing the same address, VM Media and High Tech Win. According to the company’s website, VM handles social media management, online advertising, and other digital marketing.

Neither the Perry nor the Gingrich camp appears to be running search advertising, typically the first indicator that a political campaign is buying online advertising.

GOP Presidential Candidates
Online Ad/Marketing Spending
April-September 2011
Candidate Amount Spent on
Online Ad/Marketing Related Buys
Mitt Romney $895,229
Michele Bachmann $394,508
Jon Huntsman $100,971
Ron Paul $95,436
Rick Santorum $68,466
Buddy Roemer $41,114
Herman Cain $24,935
(not including
video production spending)

The bulk of Ron Paul’s $95,000 digital marketing related payments went to various companies for email services, possibly list buying as well as delivery and management services. Around $1,000 was marked as Google ad spending, according to the FEC.

Jon Huntsman may have spent more than $100,000 on digital media marketing thus far, though the $43,000 spent with Smart Media Group may have encompassed TV or other traditional media buys. His campaign reported a $4,850 expenditure with digital communications firm Connect Strategic Communications, and $53,000 for services from Evolve Social Media Management.

Rick Santorum spent around $68,000 through September with Raise Digital and Emotive on digital marketing efforts including Google advertising, online fundraising, email, and consulting, though it’s unclear how much went to online ads in total.

Meanwhile, Herman Cain’s campaign reported spending $3,700 on Facebook ads since July. His was the only campaign that actually broke out Facebook ad expenditures in FEC reporting, but candidates including Bachmann and Romney have run Facebook ads since the start of their 2012 election runs. The Cain camp spent around $25,000 in total including the Facebook ads, social media expenditures with Washington Political Group, and $10,000 with conservative news publisher Newsmax, possibly on online ads or email sponsorships. In addition, Cain seems to be investing a good deal in web video production, spending $175,000 with production firm Little Bonanza Productions.

Roemer, whose campaign made payments to Bachmann’s digital agency as late as September, spent more than $41,000 on site development, consulting, and online ads with Connell Donatelli/Campaign Solutions.

The oft-ignored Gary Johnson reported no digital media related expenditures, though the majority of his campaign spending went towards political consulting which may have encompassed media buys.

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