October 11, 2022

Laying the Groundwork

Graham began breaking ground as soon as he enrolled at Texas A&M University as the first Aggie from Belize. He completed a degree in geophysics in 1987 and returned to his home country to work in oil and mineral prospecting as a geophysicist for the Belizean government. “The job was appealing—I loved using numbers to solve problems, and I liked working outside,” he explained. But a few years in the position led Graham to a realization: To find job satisfaction, he needed to find answers. “Prospecting is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and it’s doubly difficult when there’s no cat,” he said with a smile. “In prospecting, you can do everything right and still fail, and that really bothered me.”

After three years in the field, Graham also realized he needed to know more about running a business, so he decided to return to school for his MBA. “Texas A&M had a great program, I loved the university, and they offered me a scholarship, so back I went.” He completed his master’s in 1992 and simultaneously earned a bachelor’s degree in physics.

While working toward his MBA, Graham made another discovery: There’s immense power to drive change in marketing. He decided he wanted to know more. “Although my plan was to return to prospecting in Belize, I decided to do a marketing internship with P&G in Mexico first. I found that I loved marketing, and P&G’s brand of marketing was very analytically driven, so my experience and skill working with numbers and data were assets.” And with that, the die was cast.

Merging Marketing and Science

For the next nine years, Graham led advertising initiatives for P&G around Latin America, gathering valuable experience in marketing and technology and learning to work successfully in the global marketplace. By the early 1990s, the shift toward digital advertising was well underway, and Graham saw the opportunities inherent in his ability to use statistics to guide advertising efforts. “The rise of the internet increased our ability to pinpoint messaging,” he observed. Recognizing an opportunity to leverage his skills and increase his knowledge base, Graham pivoted and left P&G to join the international media agency Starcom.

The school instills the idea that you can make a difference, that there’s a lot that you, as an individual, can do.
Brett Graham '87 '92

For the following nine years—apart from a brief, two-year stint as Western Union’s Marketing Director for Latin America and the Caribbean—Graham led Starcom’s global branding initiatives for such corporate giants as UBS, Merck and Coca-Cola. He also worked two years with Omnicom Media Group setting up an analytics team in Chicago working with clients such as Walgreens, McDonald’s and Cisco.

Then, in late 2016, Amazon Advertising came calling with an irresistible prospect: launch its Analytics and Media Management team. “I saw a special advertising opportunity and knew that Amazon had an unmatched amount of data. Even though I had just returned to the U.S. and was still getting established in Chicago, it was just too exciting to pass up.”

Over the following five years, Graham built Amazon’s agile consulting team of analysts. “We enhanced existing advertising products by using artificial intelligence and other advanced approaches, such as natural language processing—essentially building algorithms that look for anomalies in word patterns—to weight text information in reviews and make them more helpful,” he explained. “The end result delighted Amazon as well as advertisers and consumers.”

This work also sharpened Graham’s skill set for the next challenge, which Oracle presented in January 2022. “My time at Amazon was incredibly rewarding and I absolutely loved it, but my rate of learning had slowed down,” he said. So, when the Oracle opportunity arose, Graham jumped headlong into his next adventure serving as insight team lead for Moat, Oracle’s ad measurement and marketing analytics suite.