Although Cossette opened its doors as a Quebec City graphic design studio in 1962, the story really began in 1972, with the arrival of Claude Lessard. Claude was a recent business school graduate from Université Laval who had a clear vision and the support of a small group of committed and entrepreneurial partners.
Under Claude’s leadership, Cossette meticulously built the framework for its ascent in Canada. Within a decade after his arrival, the agency had expanded beyond its home base to establish a booming operation in Montreal and a solid foothold in the all-important and highly competitive Toronto market.
A key ingredient in this success was the development of a new operating principle, pioneered by Claude’s colleague, Francois Duffar. ‘Convergent communications’ – trademarked by Cossette in the mid-1970s – involved offering a variety of marketing disciplines under one roof. This became Cossette’s point of difference and a major contributing factor to the company’s growth and success.
Today, Cossette is not only among Canada’s largest communications organizations with offices from coast-to-coast, it is also a fully diversified, publicly traded company offering services across the full spectrum of marketing disciplines including mainstream advertising, direct marketing, design, interactive, public relations, research and more. It has also expanded into the United States, Europe, and the Far East, and currently employs some 1,500 people in 14 offices. Cossette’s client list reads like a who’s who of leading marketers and brands, including General Motors, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s Restaurants, Bell Canada, General Mills, Molson Breweries and Nike.
Claude is a board member for various companies and organizations, including Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Canada, the Institut de cardiologie de Québec, and Université Laval’s Faculté des sciences de l’administration.
At home and abroad, Claude Lessard is widely respected for his innovative, even non-conformist, management philosophy, based on three basic values – respect, loyalty and openness. He has been included among Québec’s new generation of builders in the field of business by L’Actualité magazine. He has been recognized in various ways by the industry, including the Gold Medal from the Association of Canadian Advertising in 1994, and the Spiess Award from the Television Bureau of Canada for his ‘continuous leadership in the Canadian advertising industry’ in 1993. In 2001, he earned the Grand Prix de l’Entrepreneur provincial (Media and Entertainment category), and the Grand Prix de l’Entrepreneur national (Service Excellence category) in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year program. He received an honorary doctorate in Management Science from Université Laval in 2002, and the Gloire de l’Escolle medal from Laval’s Association des diplômés in 1998.
Francois is very active within the local community. He is involved with the Montreal Heart Institute and Domaine Forget, a music school at University Laval, and serves as a board member of several non-profit social and cultural organizations, as well as private communications and high-tech firms. He was personally responsible for raising millions of dollars for the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Foundation in Montreal, and was equally influential raising money for St. Justine’s, a hospital for children in Montreal.