Cossette Health rebrands as Gene

Managing director Joe Dee explains how the agency's approach has evolved and why it added a consultancy offering.

Cossette Health has rebranded its digital healthcare offering, renaming it Gene as it looks to take a more high-level, strategic approach with its clients.

“One of the challenges when you add health to a big integrated agency like Cossette is the market tends to perceive you as just the pharma advertising arm of the business,” says Joe Dee, managing director of Gene. “We have done some of that, but that’s a narrow view on what we’re doing.”

When Cossette Health was founded in 2016, it was heavily focused on innovation, offering an accelerator for clients to get new products and services off the ground and an incubator for early-stage companies, on top of more traditional communications and creative services. Dee says Gene will continue to work in that space – describing it as the agency’s “sweet spot” – but is taking a more holistic approach to helping new and innovative healthcare offerings get off the ground and in front of consumers.

“I just think we’re maturing beyond the idea of incubators and taking a startup, entrepreneurial approach with clients,” Dee says. “It’s going to be about, how do we find opportunities to find new business models and new ways to deliver care? How do you deliver that in an economy of scale through digital channels? And how do we put that into the world in an engaging way? We know engagement with some of these new healthcare offerings can be really tough to crack, especially when talking to people who are used to experiencing healthcare in a very traditional way.”

To that end, Gene is adding a new consulting offering, led by Anya Kravets as VP of consulting. Kravets first joined the agency as director of engagement around the time of its launch in 2016, and has previously worked with nonprofit Hacking Health, GCI Canada and Edelman.

Dee says the market pulled Gene towards adding a dedicated consulting arm, since – much like Cossette – it was being pulled into work on larger business and organizational strategy challenges. He says those are discussions that are especially important when it comes to emerging digital and technology-based healthcare offerings, as there tends to be less consumer understanding in healthcare compared to other verticals.

Kravets joins Dee on a leadership group at Gene that has seen a number of changes and additions over the last year. The team also consists of VP of integrated production Luc Quartarone (who joined a year ago and was named to his current position in July), VP of strategy Andrew Stewart (who was hired in November after stints at Publicis and Ogilvy), VP of product and technology Paul Jara (who was hired from the Centre for Social Innovation in July) and Réjean Fortin (who joined the agency in May and recently took on duties as general manager in Quebec and Atlantic Canada).

Dee adds that the Gene branding – which comes from the idea that, in biology, a gene is responsible for the expression of characteristics and traits – is one that would work better globally, something the agency is considering as parent company Vision7 looks to the U.S. as part of international expansion plans. He says Gene could also potentially become dedicated health and wellness space within Vision7′s campuses, where staff from other agencies in the network can visit for things like meditation rooms, nutritional advice and fitness support.