Agency 100 2022: Schaefer Advertising


The challenges that come with recruiting and onboarding new employees during a boom period in healthcare marketing — and, you know, a pandemic — have prompted any number of firms to slacken their policies and shoehorn newbies into the day-to-day flow. Schaefer Advertising is, decidedly, not one of those firms.

The company’s hiring process is designed to identify individuals who are “culture-plus” and “business-plus” (as opposed to culture-minus/business-
minus). On day zero — an employee’s first day — each arrival already has an individualized development plan, which is revisited on a quarterly basis, as well as an experience map for his or her position.

“The process is very rigorous,” notes EVP, account strategy and client development Sara Hull.

Schaefer Advertising doesn’t do this out of some sense of obligations; it does this because it works. “We’re seeing other companies move into a transactional mindset — ‘grab people where you can,'” explains president and CEO Ken Schaefer. “We’re not going to let go of our focus on whether we’re the right fit for you and you’re the right fit for us. People have enormous respect for the intention we put behind our recruiting process.”

Schaefer believes this releaselessness has played a huge part in the company’s recent growth. In 2021, the agency generated revenue of $12.9 million, up 52% ​​from $8.5 million in 2020. Staff size grew from 27 full-timers at the beginning of the year to 37 at its conclusion.

Indeed, for all its talk about culture, managing director, healthcare Jake Yarbrough stresses that Schaefer Advertising is “ruthlessly focused on results.” In 2021, it added engagements with Galderma (on four brands), Argon Medical Devices and diabetes diagnostics startup Podimetrics.

Then there’s the agency’s work with Sight Sciences, which commenced back when the company had maybe a dozen people on the payroll. It went public last July and is expanding into drug/device combinations.

To that point, Hull notes that Schaefer Advertising’s healthcare vertical — it also works in real estate and attractions, tourism and the arts — has seen a great deal of diversification during the last 12 to 18 months. “Historically, there had been a little more emphasis on the pharma space. Now we’re moving intentionally into services and devices,” she says.

The company is ready to take on a broader scope of assignments — and do so with great confidence in its abilities.

“If you are called contemporaries at other agencies we cooperate with, I’d venture to guess they think we’re part of a global agency in terms of our thinking and approach,” Yarbrough adds. “I feel strongly we can sit at the table and outperform other agencies.”

Before the year is out, Schaefer Advertising is likely to grow via acquisition, one that will “either deepen a functional expertise or a vertical,” Schaefer says. It also plans to do some self-promotion after years of relative silence.

“We’re not a big chest-thumping kind of agency; We let our work do the chest-thumping for our clients,” Schaefer continues. “So we’re working on growing our awareness in the communities that align with the business we want to build.” In other words: Stay tuned.

. . .

Work from outside pharma you admire…

The recent 911 spot for the Apple Watch deepens value and differentiates the brand among other wearables. The script and voiceover are drawn from real audio of watch-based emergency calls, where being connected via the watch prevented serious harm. This simple film conveys how the brand makes us not only feel motivated in the pursuit of a healthier life, but also feel safer knowing it can connect us to life-saving services. — Schaefer

From the June 01, 2022 Issue of MM+M – Medical Marketing and Media

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