“The return on investment probably would not have impressed Mitt Romney in his former life as a cold-eyed venture capitalist,” writes the able and precise Mike Dorning for the chicagotribune.com in an article titled Romney’s big ad buys don’t pre-empt foes; So far, he’s getting little bang for buck [link, alas, requires a tedious and invasive registration, but it’s worth it], a theme on which we have elaborated for months.

As of Dec. 16, the Romney campaign had spent $16 million on television advertising — more than the two leading Democratic candidates combined, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Yet the former Massachusetts governor is struggling in national polls against Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, who had spent $600,000 and $2.3 million respectively, according to the same data.

What does that money get you? As of mid-November, with nearly two months to go before the first votes are cast, Romney had aired nearly 17,000 TV commercials, according to the Nielsen Co. More than 7,400 of them aired in Iowa alone.

Conventional wisdom counts a well-funded television advertising offensive among the most potent weapons in a campaign. TV commercials, after all, are where most of the money goes in major political campaigns.

But particularly in the GOP primary campaign, the big spender’s ads aren’t yet showing much bang for the buck.

Yes. Further: the “Huckabee boomlet” in Iowa moved Gov. Huckabee’s numbers in other states, e.g. SC, FL, MI, and nationally. This, according to Newport of Gallup, predicts what a win for Gov. Huckabee in Iowa would achieve—other wins.

Yet when Romney’s poll numbers drifted aloft like the clouds above Iowa, Romney’s poll numbers nationally and in every state except where he advertised heavily failed to move in the least. What does this mean? More on that here:

What the Huckabee “boomlet” reveals about Romney

Back to Dorning:

Part of the explanation is the highly fluid GOP presidential contest and the unusually varied strategies the candidates have pursued to adapt their campaigns to the highly compressed primary calendar, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence.

And Romney’s big early advertising buys and willingness to dip into his personal fortune to fund his campaign probably made his opponents especially wary of releasing money for TV ads early, for fear that they would be unable to answer if Romney opened his wallet for a last-minute blitz, Tracey said.

“To some extent, it froze the other well-funded candidates on the Republican side,” Tracey said. “You don’t want to run out of money at the end, when the ads are perceived to be the most important.”

Yuh-huh. We predicted how the other campaigns would adapt themselves to Romney’s von Schliefflin plan.

We also predicted how Romney’s over-spending would compel other candidates to conserve and withhold:

how Romney’s early state strategy is creating conditions that resemble a general election

Back to Dorning:

The Internet also is emerging as an important component of campaign media strategies, though still not as significant as TV advertising. In many cases, campaigns are producing video ads for the Internet or seeking broader audiences for their television ads by e-mailing them to supporters or posting them on sites like YouTube.

Giuliani, whose campaign comes closest to Romney’s in funding strength, has been husbanding his resources for a strategy that concentrates on later, delegate-rich states such as Florida and then New York, California and Illinois — all dominated by media markets with high advertising costs. Those are the states where Giuliani believes Republicans are most open to a social moderate like himself.

Still, the former New York mayor’s slow start in television advertising could be contributing to his recent slip in polls.

Huckabee light on TV exposure

Huckabee went most of 2007 with few financial resources and concentrated on gaining a boost from the Iowa caucuses by cultivating support among Christian evangelicals, a constituency not as easily reached by television advertising.

“Huckabee is really a phenomenon as Republicans search for a real Republican and the religious voters search for a candidate who is supportive of their social values and consistently so. You add in the fact that he’s a rock musician and very articulate and witty,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic media strategist.

Romney has built his campaign around a conventional strategy of building national momentum through strong showings in the three early Republican contests — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

He started his campaign with the disadvantage of a minimal national profile while facing such well-recognized rivals as Giuliani, famous nationwide for leading New York City during the Sept. 11 attacks; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prominent politician with a compelling life story already known to voters in early-voting states through his 2000 presidential campaign; and Fred Thompson, a former senator and actor who was a regular on the network TV show “Law & Order.”

Though Romney already had some following in New Hampshire from his tenure as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, he rose in the polls there and particularly in Iowa and South Carolina after he launched an early and robust ad campaign ahead of his opponents.

“He was an asterisk at the start of the campaign, and now he’s a front-runner. So you can’t quarrel too much with what they’ve done with advertising,” Carrick said.

Arguably, the most effective use of TV advertising in presidential primary campaigns is for just such an introductory role, allowing candidates to present themselves to voters on their own terms, with a message unfettered by the news media’s independent analysis … etc., etc.

Our question: Why has Romney’s advertising failed—why when Romney has achieved nearly complete saturation on the airwaves of Iowa does he trail the under-funded and relatively un-organized Gov. Mike Huckabee? See:

More on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI: Romney reaches total saturation in Iowa—for example, he purchased 2,000 GRPs in Cedar Rapids alone—yet he still trails perilously behind the under-funded and under-organized Gov. Mike Huckabee

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


  1. 1 Edsall: “Since January 1, 2007, the former Massachusetts governor has spent well in excess of $80 million, including at least $17.4 million of his own money, paying media fees in excess of $30 million, salaries of roughly $16 million, and consulting

    […] More on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI (ii): “So far, [Romney’s] getting little bang for his bu… […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: