James Schiefer, CEO and co-founder of advertising agency SCS, has a new and expanded headquarters in Costa Mesa for the firm—whose roots date back 37 years ago—while keeping his eyes open for additional opportunities to grow nationally and in other countries.
Joining the company in 2001 and becoming chief executive four years later in 2005, Schiefer has grown SCS from a TV and media planning office into a full-service marketing agency covering digital, media and other creative services.
SCS was born out of the 2016 merger between Schiefer Media, started in 1985 by Schiefer’s father, Carl Schiefer, and creative agency ChopShop of Newport Beach. This allowed SCS to diversify its business capabilities—combining media agency work with a content studio and digital shop—as well as the industries it now serves.
“We’re working with clients that love to push the envelope a bit as we grow into a more innovative agency than a standard advertising group,” Schiefer told the Business Journal.
The company ranked No. 4 on the Business Journal’s latest list of advertising agencies, reaching $68 million in reported 2021 revenue.
Revenue nearly doubled year-over-year due to a handful of recent acquisitions, as well as a boost in business from 2020, when the ad industry took a beating amid the onset of the pandemic.
SCS serves a range of industries, including retail, technology, entertainment, home goods and others, and counts around 40 clients.
The agency helped the Discovery network—now Warner Bros. Discovery (Nasdaq: WBD) after merging with AT&T’s WarnerMedia—launch its platform Discovery+ in 2020, creating new visuals and sound elements for the rebrand. In nine weeks, SCS delivered artwork for 350 titles in 25 different formats.
The team also provides content for Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment, launching a trailer campaign for its Hearthstone video game last year featuring a series of episodic commercials about the video game.
One of its longest clients include Huntington Beach-based Mothers Polish, a maker of car wax and polish products. Other notable OC-based clients are Too Faced Cosmetics and Baldwin Hardware.
SCS moved into a new office in Costa Mesa this past March; the Baker Street location is about half a mile from The Lab’s anti-mall on Bristol Street. When the company’s prior lease at a spot in Irvine neared its end, the team found a location that would help the transition to its current hybrid model of work. About 55 of the company’s 110 employees are based locally.
“The new office was a blank slate, a shell to build out,” Schiefer said.
The space is just under 10,000 square feet and features a main conference room for meetings and interviews, a large area of cubicles with privacy walls, and includes more casual spaces for employees to use.
Schiefer wanted the space to reflect the importance of collaboration, whether in office or online, with staff coming in every Wednesday and choosing their work location for the rest of the week.
Several campaigns the agency has successfully launched in the past have been placed on the walls for display.
“The look and feel are elevated as we work on strategy and consult with global brands but in a cool way,” Schiefer said.
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According to Schiefer, the business strategy for SCS involves three pillars: strategy, production and execution, and analytics.
“Our expansion plan is to push on both analytics and production in order to drive the overall business,” he said of its growth strategy.
A main focus of this business outline is expansion. The firm is currently looking at various revenue hubs and agencies in other markets to expand its team and clientele.
“We want to be working with people around the world with a team who can work for our clients in a real-time marketplace,” Schiefer said. “We want global clients whose work can be executed around the world.”
SCS has three main offices in the U.S., operating in Atlanta and Ottawa as well as Costa Mesa.
The agency acquired Atlanta-based Swarm in August 2021 as the firm’s third and most recent acquisition. Swarm, an independent digital performance marketing agency founded in 2009, was reported to be among Atlanta’s top 25 ad firms at the time the deal was struck. Its digital strategy work focuses on the financial, home services, retail, B2B, consumer products, e-commerce and tourism industries.
SCS is on the lookout for more buys, according to the CEO.
“We are definitely looking at acquisition as a growth strategy,” Schiefer said of the agency’s outlook on the mergers front.
A main feature of Schiefer’s Costa Mesa office is a pair of Vans sneakers by his desk, a memento of where his father started and what he’s working on now.
In the beginning of his career, Carl Schiefer worked in the automotive aftermarket after being a drag racer since he was 18. He won at the 1964 World Finals in the Top Gas class. He began representing athletes in sports marketing and later helped bring motorsports to cable TV through starting his own company.
An early collaboration Schiefer remembers his father worked on was between a notable racer at the time, Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, and then Anaheim-based Vans Inc. The two created a limited-edition sneaker, featuring the racer’s logo and signature red and black colors as a one-off project in the 1980s.
About 40 years later, Schiefer and his team work directly with now Costa Mesa-based Vans as a crossover client from the Chopshop merger.
“It’s a full circle moment,” Schiefer said. “We’re going to keep the throttle down and grow.”