Dumont, Shearer depart Cossette amid executive shuffle

Plus Company Canada has made significant changes at Cossette, with both Ontario and west president Daniel Shearer and Cossette Media president Axel Dumont no longer with the company.*

Mélanie Dunn, president, Plus Company Canada and CEO, Cossette, said there are no immediate plans to replace Shearer. Instead, she plans to work closely with Toronto GM and senior vice-president Kathy McGuire, as well as Cossette Vancouver vice-president and GM Robyn Smith.

While Louis Duschene, president of Quebec and east, remains with Cossette, two of the four senior executives previously listed on the “leaders” section of its home page are no longer with the company.

However, Plus Company has already hired one of Canada’s most accomplished and respected media executives to oversee its national media operations, which, in addition to Cossette Media and Jungle Media, include Impact Research as well as joint-ventures and other media related start-ups in its portfolio.

After stating that she was preparing for a “new adventure” upon leaving Omnicom Media Group last week, Karine Courtemanche (right in photo) is joining Plus Company Canada as executive vice-president and president of its media group (comprised of Cossette Media and Jungle Media).

The company said that it plans to hire a national lead for Cossette Media, although the new operating structure for its media operations under Courtemanche has not yet been determined. For now, Andrew Butts, senior vice-president of business leadership at Cossette Media, is acting as the interim lead.

Asked about the reasons for replacing Shearer and Dumont, Dunn described them as part of the evolution of the Plus Company Network under its new ownership.

In May 2021, what was then known as Vision7, was acquired by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

Since then, aside from rebranding as Plus Company in late 2021, it has been “evolving” its portfolio, with “significant investments” from its owners to expand in areas like martech, e-commerce, AI and data developments. Last June, for example, it acquired U.S. data and performance-marketing specialists Mekanism, and appointed Brian Whipple, former CEO of Accenture Interactive, as chair of its board.

Meanwhile, as Plus Company undertakes its own “evolution,” Cossette has seen major changes in its own right in recent years. Between 2015 and 2020, it was widely regarded as a top advertising agency in Canada. However, starting in 2020, several key creatives overseeing its award-winning creative output left, and Dunn seemed to signal her intent to reinvent the agency by choosing Sabaa Quao as CCO last September.

While Quao has a long and impressive career path in the industry, his reputation was more about technology, innovation and entrepreneurialism than the advertising Cossette had been famous for.

At the time, however, Dunn said the agency was seeking “non-traditional creative leadership,” and Quao’s background in innovation and entrepreneurialism was particularly enticing. Six months later, Quao’s work with Cossette has come to encompass more than creativity, she said. “He’s bringing a lot of innovative thinking to the organization.”

Speaking to The Message on Tuesday, Dunn said the magnitude and sheer number of changes naturally led to a discussion about the best path for the company’s leaders and their role in the organization.

“When you want to create change, there has to be some careful consideration of the team, leaving room for people to grow, and bringing in new talent,” she said. “This is part of the movement we’re creating, so we [mutually] decided it was time to part ways with [Dumont and Shearer].”

“After months of discussion with Mélanie, we agreed it was the right time to close this chapter, and part ways,” said Shearer via text to The Message. “I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved—from the massive growth, to the global accolades, to the amazing talent and client partners we attracted and collaborated with. There were countless career highlights for me, and many Cossette firsts achieved.

“Personally, this was the right thing for me, at the right time, and I’m ready to move on and plan for what’s next,” he added. “I’m still very excited to cheer Cossette and Plus Company on.”

In a recent LinkedIn post announcing his departure from the company after four-and-a-half years, Dumont said that the past year has produced both personal and professional challenges, including temporarily stepping away from the business to help his daughter through a “major health event.”

“I truly believe that Cossette Media is at an inflection point, with an exciting future ahead,” he said. “Transparently, I’m sad to not be a part of the opportunity this period of transition presents.”

Dunn, meanwhile, said she’s unsure when—or perhaps even if—a permanent successor for Shearer will be named. “For now I think the model we’re implementing works really well,” she said. “Our leadership team has been working really well together, and they’re all proven leaders in their own role, so I don’t foresee a change in the near future.”

In a release, Plus Company Canada called Courtemanche’s hire “an important milestone” as it pursues a strategy emphasizing teamwork and collaboration among its portfolio of brands, with a goal of propelling creativity through “cutting edge technology and ideas.”

Plus Company also announced that Peter Bolt and Brooke Leland have been named president of Camp Jefferson and Jungle Media respectively, with Leland adding the president title to her managing partner role.

In hiring Courtemanche, Plus Company Canada gets an experienced and highly regarded senior business leader who rose up steadily through the OMG Canada ranks during her two decades with the company, all while fostering a reputation for media excellence and creativity.

“What I like about Karine is that she’s been running not only a group of agencies, but also the most awarded group of agencies in the country,” said Dunn. “Both Touché! and PHD are well-known for creativity, for innovation, and for tapping into digital and technology.”

Courtemanche and Dunn’s professional relationship dates back to Palm + Havas in the late 1990s, and the two have remained in close contact over the past two decades. Cossette and OMG sharing some clients in recent years also provided Dunn with some insight into Courtemanche’s approach to management.

“I could see how she’s all about collaboration, a true leader who’s also a people person,” she said. “There’s a big opportunity, because there’s a fit both culturally and from a values perspective. I have high ambitions with her as a partner.”

*This story has been updated from the original post on June 27 to clarify the role of Courtemanche, and to add a quote from Shearer.

Chris Powell