Buys into Paine PR: Canada's Cosette expanding in U.S.

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Cossette Communication Group's purchase of a stake in Paine PR this month is not likely to be the last U.S. acquisition for the Canadian marketing company as it continues its slow but deliberate growth here.

Peter Post, CEO of the company's New York-based agency Cossette Post said that more deals could be in the offing. This could potentially include deals in the sales-promotion arena or another PR buy to supplement Cossette's media-neutral approach, which plans client strategy across disciplines without favoring one medium over another.

More disciplines

The midsize Paine, based in Los Angeles with an office in New York, posts annual revenue of about $9 million and its client list includes Polaroid Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., Levi Strauss & Co. and JPMorgan Chase. Cossette executives, however, said the purchase was motivated less by the prospect of cross-selling services to existing clients than by the desire to bring PR to developing ideas for marketers.

"We're talking about planning as much as execution here," said Mr. Post. "Execution is easy. Anybody can execute. We think the more disciplines we have at the planning table, the better solutions we'll come up with for clients."

For the agency's founder and CEO, David Paine, the attraction was based on cultural factors as well as its marketing approach-what Cossette calls "convergent communications"-and its emphasis on media-neutral planning. "They bring the disciplines together in the first 15% of the planning process to determine the best overall strategy without favoring one over the other," Mr. Paine said.

If Cossette does continue its U.S. growth, don't expect it to happen overnight. The company spent almost three years sifting through U.S. PR shops before it settled on Paine, a time frame that's in line with its growth plans. Part of this is due to the agency managers' focus on chemistry and culture in the firms they seek, according to one PR executive whose firm flirted with Cossette.

Cossette, Canada's largest agency, established a U.S. foothold with the purchase of Post & Partners in 2001, renamed Cossette Post. It added the direct-marketing firm Tarsitano Creative to Cossette Post in 2003. Cossette broke into Europe last year with the purchase of the London-based brand consultancy Identica.

The Paine deal, which gives Cossette an 80% interest in the firm, is the second PR acquisition for Cossette in the past month, following the purchase of U.K.'s Band & Brown Group. Together, the moves added 135 staffers and tripled Cossette's existing PR force.

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