Why Rockfish Interactive Was Tapped to Build Mitt's VP App: Speed

Shop Sees Opportunity as a Learning Experience

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The digital doo-dad that 's seemed most to catch the eye of the media this election cycle has been the Mitt's VP app pushed out by the Mitt Romney campaign. Those who download the app will be the first to know when Mr. Romney makes his choice of running mate.

The agency behind it? Former Ad Age Small Agency of the Year and Agency A-Lister Rockfish Interactive, based in Rogers, Ark. The WPP-owned shop (it was acquired last August) counts Walmart, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, EA Sports and PF Changs among its clients.

And, now, the Romney campaign.

"The work speaks for itself," said Zac Moffat, digital director of Romney for President, referring to Rockfish's portfolio. Mr. Moffatt explained that after Mr. Romney all but secured the Republican nomination in April, the campaign team had to ramp up pretty quickly. It's since built its own engineering team that can handle most tasks, but when they were considering outside agencies capable of working fast, Rockfish's name was brought up by a digital adviser.

"The speed is what separated them" from the rest of the non-political shops, Mr. Moffatt said. That, and the fact that Rockfish "has a real strength in [the app] area."

"This mobile app wasn't our idea," said Rockfish Founder Kenny Tomlin. "They wanted to do it and came to us to build it. Which we were excited about ... and they've been great to work with. But we have no intention of politics becoming a focus of our business; we're just a technology partner. We're not a digital strategy agency for the RNC."

In the current realm of political advertising, general-market agencies don't do much political work. One reason is that general-market agency employees might resist working for a candidate of a particular party. Another reason is that political campaigns find non-political ad agencies too slow to work with in the heat of a campaign.

"I wasn't worried about alienating employees because it's just a small team working on the business," said Mr. Tomlin. "I wasn't going to ask someone to work on a Mitt Romney mobile app if they hate Republicans. And just like every agency, there are brands and companies you work with that not everyone in the agency likes, but you find the people within who are passionate about it and put them on the business."

Mr. Tomlin also saw the chance to work with a political campaign as a learning experience. "We felt like as a business, there was a ton we could learn in the election cycle about rapid innovation and rapid response. You don't have weeks or months to think about what's next and long timelines. Everything moves so quickly in politics -- what's news one day is gone by the next -- that the team at Rockfish is learning a lot about quick turnarounds, which frankly all of our clients right now are interested in."

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