Cossette Inc., the Quebec City-based company, is no more. The company announced today that its structure has been radically altered to create a new umbrella company called Vision7 International.
As an agency, Cossette will retain its name as well as president and CEO Brett Marchand to form one of two divisions within Vision7. The agency will offer integrated marketing services across Canada, uniting the agency’s many offshoot brands, such as interactive shop Fjord, into the Cossette structure.
The second Vision7 division is called Esprit de Corps Communications, and represents the international arm of the new holding company. Led by former EVP of Cossette West Colin Schleining in North America and former COO of Cossette UK Gregor Angus in the U.K., Esprit de Corps is a collection of individual agencies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., including PR firms Paine (U.S.), Optimum (Canada) and Band and Brown (UK), digital agency Dare, social media agency Rocket XL and activation shop Elvis.
“What this gives us is a lot of flexibility,” said Vision7 International chairman and CEO Claude Lessard. “We wanted to have a structure that would really focus on our people and clients here in Canada. Then also have this second element where we could be a lot more aggressive from an international perspective with a different set of managers. It will make our group very successful with these two different strategies.”
Previously, each Cossette brand had seperate profit and loss (P&L) statements and its own management team reporting to Cossette Inc.
Under the new structure, Vision7 amalgamates many of those individual operations under the Cossette name in Canada, and as a smaller collection of brands under Esprit de Corps.
The new Cossette agency will operate full-service offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. The Esprit de Corps brands will expand so each has a presence in Canada, the U.S. and UK.
Marchand said the planning behind the restructure began as part of Lessard’s succession strategy and before the hostile takeover bid led by former partner François Duffar last year. The agency had been experimenting with a more integrated offering for more than a year with three clients–Bank of Montreal, MTS and Montreal Tourism–and was pleased with the results. The restructure began by bringing in consultancy firm Satov which conducted a full business review, including interviewing clients and employees about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the agency’s operations.
“There weren’t any shocks but we were surprised by how many employees felt that the silos and different agencies within Cossette were hampering their ability to work as a team on behalf of clients,” said Marchand. “We had been fearful that if we started taking away some of these identities, whether it’s Fjord or Blitz or whomever, that it would be a negative but it turns out the employees wanted it to happen.”
Lessard said the move is a natural progression to where the company has been headed over the last few years. As the agency added more disciplines of expertise, its model of convergence became more difficult to manage effectively. “When you have three or four disciplines it’s quite easy, but as the industry gets increasingly complex, we ended up having 15 different divisions, which made it difficult to integrate,” said Lessard. “So this is the natural next step, which is the integration of all these services. It’s not a revolution, just part of the natural process of evolving our business.”
The changes seems to be pleasing clients. David Klein, vice-president of marketing for Aeroplan, sees it as an overwhelmingly positive move. “It’s our strong belief that their consolidation of disciplines and simplification of process are highly responsive to where consumers are leading marketers–to a place where all consumer touchpoints are fully and seamlessly integrated,” said Klein.
While the overall restructure wasn’t a cost-cutting move, Marchand pointed out that there will be some redundancies. “The intention wasn’t to lay anyone off, even though we call it a restructuring and that’s usually the first thing that comes to people’s minds,” he said. “But the reality is, we’ve got somewhere between nine and 14 general managers in every city. Many will be integrated into different roles and some of them may decide it’s not what they signed up for.”
Marchand said the official transition to the new structure will happen over the next six weeks. “In some cases, employees know how their lives may be changing and others won’t know until the end of the year,” he said.