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Canada's Cossette Aims to Continue Strides Into U.S.

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The industry downturn of the last two years has not deterred Canada's Cossette Communication Group from going ahead with its push into the U.S. The purchase of New York direct marketing concern Tarsitano Creative last week is Cossette's second deal in the U.S., following the acquisition of Post & Partners in August 2001.

While other Canadian companies such as Maxxcom and Envoy Communications Group have paused in their move southward, Cossette said it is committed to an expansion strategy launched in 1999, three months before the Quebec City-based company went public.

"There have been some disadvantages and some advantages [to the downturn] as well," said Claude Lessard, CEO of Cossette. "Some of the people we met three years ago have changed a lot since then, and they are weak players. We're glad we didn't make mistakes." But, he added, "in these bad times, the cream has come out. Those with solid values have shown they can still succeed."

Lessard's plan is to use his New York agency operations, now Cossette Post, as the base for the next round of acquisition activity. Midterm, he hopes to look at the West Coast for partners, since Cossette has a strong presence in Vancouver, British Columbia. After that, Cossette aims to expand into Europe, initially into London, said Lessard.

Cossette, which began as a French-language design group and ad agency in 1972, is a full-service communications group with seven offices in Canada. Its clients include Bell Canada, Coca-Cola, General Motors of Canada, Molson Breweries and Nike Canada. In the 2002 fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Cossette's sales rose 24 percent to U.S. $505 million from the year earlier. —NOREEN O'LEARY