Cossette takes majority stake in IT consulting firm

This week Cossette Communication Group Inc. increased its stake in an IT consulting firm, a move that the company’s Toronto president predicted would put them far ahead of competitors.

Cossette Communication Group, one of Canada’s

largest communications and marketing firms, now owns 90 per cent of Proximi-T, a company that specializes in developing and implementing customized IT infrastructures. While the marriage of the two organizations’ specialties may not be apparent from the outside, Dom Caruso, the president of Cossette Toronto, said that the inclusion of IT into marketing campaigns has become very important.

“”We’re evolving into a world where customer interactivity — when and where you can achieve it — is growing in importance. For a long time we talked about going from mass marketing to one-to-one marketing that can be personalized for the customer. With the advances in technology over the years, interactivity is more achievable and more affordable,”” he said. “”So for us, this really is a logical extension of our business philosophy.””

According to Caruso, IT is becoming a more integral part of ongoing marketing programs for companies of any size and sees the interactivity piece playing in e-commerce where people are being driven to a Web site through advertising, as well as through call centres.

“”If you’re driving people to a call centre, the kind of information that appears on the customer for the call centre representative can be hugely valuable,”” he said. “”Our investment in Proximi-T is recognizing that.””

According to Caruso, this kind of relationship between a communications and marketing group and an IT company has been explored to a certain extent in the U.S., but not in Canada, although some companies have incorporated interactivity into the front end.

“”I’m surprised more competitors aren’t doing this,”” he said.

Yves Poiré, president of Proximi-T in Montréal, said that the company has already reaped benefits of being so closely linked with Cossette, which has owned 40 per cent of the company since 2000.

“”It’s helped us in securing bigger deals to present not only our, but Cossette’s balance sheet,”” Poiré said. Cossette currently employs 1,300 people in Québec City, Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton and New York and recorded a gross income of $157.7 million in 2002.

According to Poiré, Proximi-T has been able to maintain of balance of its previous clients and Cossette’s, and will not lose any employees with Cossette’s increased stake.

“”Actually, I would say it’s a springboard for growth in the company,”” he said. “”It’s a good fit with no overlap. We’re very different companies yet we’re very complementary.””

Caruso agreed. “”The skill set that they represent is unique and yet very much in sync with the business we already have.””

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