During the 1990s, there was one brand that stood out for its sometimes controversial, yet diverse, fashion campaigns: United Colours of Benetton.
In addition to paving the way for change in advertising and fashion, the creative partnership between photographer Oliviero Toscani and Benetton is what initially drew Stacey Masson, BA (communications) 00, to the field of advertising.
“The images from their collaboration were so powerful and so provocative that they didn't require any words,” says Masson, vice-president of Marketing and Communications at Cossette, Canada’s largest integrated creative agency. “They started a public debate about things that were taboo at the time, like sexual health, representation, stereotypes and injustice.
“Benetton used its distinct voice and platform for good — and after seeing the impact of that campaign, I was hooked.”
Masson — who has 20 years of experience in corporate and marketing communications, corporate social responsibility and public affairs — has held leadership positions at TELUS, Hydro-Québec and Germain Hôtels, and supported a number of local and international causes, including Public Relations Without Borders.
“At Cossette, we leverage creativity to help brands like Amnesty International, Reitmans, BDC and the SickKids Foundation tell the stories that matter about human rights, empowerment and inclusivity, entrepreneurship and families," says Masson.
“Authentic storytelling can contribute to the bottom line and, more importantly, help bring about change that's meaningful to people.”
‘It’s about the journey and the people’
Masson traces her path back to Concordia. In the Communication Studies program, teachers like Nancie Wight, GrDip 92, MA 95, opened her eyes to the power of advertising, as well as the responsibility that comes with it.
Masson also took a number of photography classes in the Faculty of Fine Arts, where she studied with Clara Gutsche, MFA 86, part-time faculty member in the Department of Studio Arts. “Her commitment to historical documentation and elevating the subjects through composition, lighting and pure photographic beauty are still a huge influence on me today,” says Masson. “The idea of focusing on one theme and studying it completely, through every angle, is one that transcends photography and I try to apply that to my work and life.”
Following graduation, Masson built her network by working as a freelance photographer while volunteering at various events and in the promotions department of a radio station. Her proactive approach to her work eventually landed her a role at a public relations firm.
When it comes to her success, Masson says it’s been more “about the journey and the people” she’s met along her path.
“Building connections across the country and around the world, learning every day, coaching teams, working with partners and clients to overcome business challenges, and ultimately achieving success together have all been incredibly rewarding.”
A clear vision
Since the start of the pandemic, Masson’s crisis management skills have been called upon more than once, yet she tries to take it one day — and one issue — at a time.
“No matter the crisis, the same response elements remain true: clear, concise and timely communication coupled with transparency and integrity always win,” she says.
Masson says the pandemic also serves as a reminder of the importance of paying attention, the value of fact-based journalism and leadership.
“We’re living through so many historic moments, from racial reckoning to the inequalities within our systems. People are using their voices in impactful ways," she says. "Leaders from business and every aspect of our society are working to not only change the conversations but to implement sustainable change. Communication has never been so powerful."