Cossette combines digital units for e-business projects

The Cossette Communication Group has combined two of its digital units to form an e-business services provider that it hopes will marry fully convergent communications services to IT systems and solutions.

The new venture is called Fjord Interactive Marketing + Technology and is the amalgamation

of the company’s Cossette Interactive and Proximi-T arms.

Pierre Delagrave, president of Fjord, said in an interview from Quebec City that putting the two units together was a natural progression for Cossette, and would benefit its clients.

“”If you take the example of a Web site, like (Cossette client) the Royal Canadian Mint, to create a shopping cart there and to transact e-commerce from it is something quite easy. But to have a Web site where you can be directly connected to its inventory and the billing of the organization is something far more difficult. You need to have the two sides working together,”” he said.

In the U.S. there is a company called Digitize that offers the same services as Fjord, Delagrave continued, but the new venture is the first on this side of the border, as far as Cossette knows, that has the capacity to deliver a complete project. One of Fjord’s clients includes a plumbing distributor, he said.

“”We have developed for them a solution — an ‘expert estimator’ we call it — that plumbers can use to evaluate a project,”” he said. “”They submit that to their customers and when the customers give their approval to the order the plumbers know right away if the material they need is available at their price. And in this case even the price is personalized.””

Another instance of Fjord’s expertise is its work for a co-operative distributor of auto parts that has sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars, said Delagrave. Fjord created a solution called “”Victor”” that has replaced dealer catalogues with a Web site that is not only more accurate because it can be changed at any time, but also offers much more promotional potential.

Delagrave said he started to look into acquiring an e-commerce company about five years ago. However, he realized that buying a company that just created one product would have meant buying lots of companies before Cossette could offer a suite of services. What was needed, he said, was a business unit that integrated available solutions.

“”We wanted to be at the head of the parade. On the Internet side we have been in Canada one of the leaders. On the back end we are considered to be the only one that is set up this way and the only one that is related to a company that offers a full range of communications.””

Mark Wright, president of MacLaren McCann Interactive, said he was unimpressed by news of Fjord’s launch. Reached at his office in Toronto, Wright said he had seen a brochure about Cossette’s new venture and “”I am still trying to figure out what it is.””

Wright said MMI offers exactly the same services as Fjord so he can’t see what the fuss is about.

“”You try to create a buzz (about something new),”” said Wright. “”Cossette is looking for an angle to stimulate growth. It’s talking to itself.””

Delagrave acknowledged the boom and bust of the digital world, but pointed out that both Cossette Interactive and Proximi-T were profitable before they were merged and as Fjord are likely to stay that way.

The new unit is part of one of the largest advertising and communications firms in Canada, with offices across the country and in London and New York.

Fjord — a name Delagrave said Cossette chose because it was distinct in an electronic world full of unique nomenclature — has a client list that includes General Motors of Canada, Hydro-Quebec and McDonald’s Restaurants, among others. The new unit has more than 150 employees.

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