With over 20 years of IT leadership experience on both client and agency sides, Bruce Haryott lends his expertise to lead the tech team on Cossette’s TD account, with a specific focus on boosting its CRM and targeted marketing capabilities.
During his two decades in technology and CRM, Bruce has successfully built and led large global development and delivery teams, providing high-value assets and solutions to multiple clients. He started his career architecting and building a ‘Salesforce Centre of Excellence’ for American Express, and continued at IBM, leading Salesforce, Workday and SAP migrations for Fortune 100 companies. Additionally, he led the IBM custom solutions and innovation team, providing assets to the U.S. Department of Defence and the healthcare, auto, consumer, finance and insurance industries, specialising in artificial intelligence and machine learning and using IBM Watson and quantum computing.
LBB> Was the creative technology world one you knew you’d enter at an early age? Were there any clues you might end up doing something like that?
Bruce> Growing up, creative technology was not as prevalent as it is now. I was first introduced to IT through hardware and networking. I had a passion for building my own machines and seeing how far I could push them without melting their motherboards. The sound of a 28.8k modem connecting to the internet was exciting and even today when I hear that sound, it brings me a sense of nostalgia and pride in knowing how much that modem and connection has changed our world.
Computer science was my focus in college and after graduating, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to write code. However, I had a passion for software engineering and how it could be customised to better serve the needs of businesses. Building and configuring hardware was also still a passion, but the advent of email and learning about how businesses were using it to promote themselves really captured my attention. I could see the world of future possibilities.
While I appreciated the work that went into developing emails, I saw a gap in how to drive engagement; most of the campaigns sent were one-offs and there was little way of measuring results or impact. As I grew in my career, I became more focused on technology management, strategy and architecture. The launch of Salesforce in 1999 was a game-changer, and CRM as a SaaS turned the market on its side and enabled collaboration, reporting and metrics in real-time. It set the standard for where we are today. Products like Google Suite, Microsoft365 and Adobe changed their models based on the success of Salesforce.
LBB> What was your first advertising-based role? And how would you define your new role of ‘vice president, technology and CRM’ at Cossette?
Bruce> At IBM I worked on Silverpop, a cloud-based CRM platform. We built out custom templates and emails; creating customer journeys for clients across specific industries, including marketing/advertising.
My current role spans the optimisation of operational efficiencies: driving growth through organic and new opportunities and leveraging new product innovations to enhance our client’s customer journey and satisfaction. There’s a lot on my plate, but in reality, this is a shared responsibility with everyone on my team. Our goal is to leverage emerging tech to help our clients and agency stay competitive. It’s all about looking for new ways to tweak the engine by staying up-to-date on the changes and many innovations within our industry.
LBB> How has CRM changed since you started?
Bruce> CRM has changed drastically over the years. Customer engagement has shifted to social platforms and the vast increase in content and the way it’s consumed has forced marketers to come up with creative ways to capture and sustain consumer attention. It’s no secret that platforms like TikTok leverage microbursts of attention and use algorithms to push similar content to sustain user engagement. This in itself has changed the way we consume and interact with other content including emails - and unless you have a very succinct and catchy message, it will likely be deleted or unread.
User analytics also play a huge role in CRM, and adding in AI enables campaigns to be more focused and engaging for their target audience - driving a much cleaner and more meaningful customer experience. As much as the industry has changed over the last few years, there are quite a few new challenges to tackle as new policies like GDPR and tools like Apple’s mail privacy protection become more popular and hinder a marketer’s ability to track engagement.
LBB> What sorts of client briefs do you get most excited about and why?
Bruce> I enjoy campaigns that have challenges which require new ways of thinking and raise the bar for what’s possible. Brand new email designs and builds that have personalisation and dynamic content with complex workflows and very targeted demographics are what get me the most excited.
LBB> What have been the most successful deployments of creative technology that made you proud recently?
Bruce> We are so used to receiving emails every day, that not many people understand how hard it is to deploy a single campaign. Maintaining consistency across different operating systems, desktop/laptop email clients and the vast array of mobile devices - it's a very tedious process.
Adding to this complexity is the existence of highly-regulated industries like pharmaceuticals, where every email has to be approved by the FDA and be absolutely perfect when deployed to the consumer. The smallest error could potentially result in a patient not using the drug correctly, which could lead to catastrophic results. I once worked on a brief for a very complex patient journey that included building over 200 distinct emails, with personalisation and dynamic content that needed to be flawless to pass regulatory signoff. To solve this, we designed an automation tool to create the emails in a fraction of the time so they could be tested and signed off. It was tough, but in the end we built thousands of unique client journeys that gave us insight into detailed patient demographics, which we then leveraged to adjust those journeys based on engagement.
LBB> When you joined Cossette, you expressed excitement about working with TD Canada Trust. What specifically excites you about this opportunity? And what ambitions do you have for this partnership?
Bruce> This is an exciting opportunity for us to help grow the TD business, but what excites me the most is helping to architect a vision and roadmap for Canada’s second-largest bank. I’m also looking forward to getting back into the banking industry. I worked across multiple clients at IBM including Amex, and many of my former Amex colleagues now work at TD Bank. It’s great to reconnect with some of the people I started this journey with at this point in our careers!
There are consistent changes in the marketing space with the introduction of Apple MPP. The ability to track email opens is impeded and we can expect more constraints as we look forward. My vision is not only to continue providing the best-in-class CRM capabilities, but to drive campaign effectiveness by leveraging new insights and analytics. I’d also like to help our clients pivot from open rates as a measurement to focusing on ways to drive CTRs - eventually measuring campaign effectiveness by calculating actual end revenue.
LBB> What do you find is the most useful resource or area of knowledge to draw upon your work?
Bruce> Having been in IT for over 20 years, working for Amex on the banking side, Salesforce on the vendor side, and many years with one of the largest tech companies, IBM, the most valuable source of knowledge is my network. The industry is in a constant state of innovation, and tapping into my network of friends, mentors and former colleagues is the best way to stay in the loop and strengthen my knowledge and expertise.
LBB> Tell us about your work with IBM. What are you most proud of accomplishing whilst working there?
Bruce> The one project that has really stayed with me is a Watson Oncology Genomics project. The idea was to create an application that would recommend drugs, treatments and trials specifically for cancer patients diagnosed with brain cancer. When a patient with Glioblastoma (GBM) has standard treatment, the tumour would almost always mutate and our application would allow oncologists to upload the biopsy and find recommendations from Watson’s massive index of cancer information. It could also match the mutation with treatments based on the patient’s genomic profile. Essentially, this was the beginning of personalised cancer treatment based on your DNA.
In one trial, a woman with GBM who was post-initial treatment had a prognosis of six months and the Watson-recommended treatment extended her life to one year. Those are an extra six months that she was able to spend with her family and it still touches me today. Our application was featured on a ‘60 Minutes’ episode and we were very proud to be part of the team that introduced this life-changing innovation.
As great as Watson is, what’s not so obvious to the public are the people behind the scenes who review and curate the content that enables Watson to draw upon heaps of information in microseconds. Having access to a resource like Watson is a huge differentiator. It opens up a whole new realm of innovation and accelerates performance which can drive efficiencies, lower costs, mitigate risk and increase profit substantially.
The power of AI (artificial/augmented intelligence) is something I plan to continue to leverage heavily at Cossette. AI allows marketers to make lightning-fast decisions based on multiple data points, and helps to personalise marketing campaigns and map consumer behaviour in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
LBB> What do you nerd out on when you’re not thinking about work? And what makes it so interesting to you?
Bruce> That’s a funny question. There are many things that I nerd out about, but one at the top of my mind is all the communication tools (i.e. email, WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat,… ) that we use multiple times a day. You’d think that technology would be helping us access information faster and more effectively, however, there are times we have no idea where we sent something from or where we saw something or saved that document. You can’t even pare down to one communication tool, as friends, family or colleagues may use something else. I keep thinking about this, especially in light of the pandemic where we all shifted to communicating more online. Creating an application that unifies all of our communications in one place would save us all hundreds of hours a year!