Television advertising is a business which touches nearly every man, woman and child in America. It has been said that “American advertising leads the world not only in volume of business, but in the complexity of its organization and of its procedures.” (DeWitt) Nearly all of us have a favorite commercial, whether it be the newest Miller Lite commercial, or an old McDonald’s commercial from years ago. But before any commercial can be brought to your television over the airwaves, a lengthy process has to take place, as the commercial runs the gamut from conception to production. As with any occupation, mathematics plays a role in this process.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines mathematics as, “the science of numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations, and abstractions and of space configurations and their structure, measurement, transformations, and generalizations.” This is a very complicated and broad definition. Advertising certainly does not apply every single option that mathematics affords. Therefore, to truly understand how mathematics relates to the field of advertising, we must break the term down into the main facets it encompasses - accounting, computer science, and statistics – to truly appreciate the role it plays.
One of the most important aspects of advertising besides statistics is accounting – the ability to manage money. We’ve all heard the saying, “Money is what makes the world go ‘round.” This is especially true in the world of advertising. According to a recent issue of Advertising Age, ad spending is expected to reach about $200 billion this year. $160 billion alone will be spent on the various forms of media advertising, with newspapers leading the way with over $29.4 billion in advertising revenues. Television is a close second with $23.5 billion, and radio brings up the pack with $7.3 billion. (Bigman) With such large amounts of money on the line, it is critical to have a competent and effective money management system in place. However, unbelievably, approximately $80 billion is wasted each year in the field of media advertising alone. How can this be? When it comes to money issues, one always has to look to the accountants first.
The typical accounting firm’s job is to keep track of their client’s money. As simple as that sounds, the actual process goes far beyond that. It includes managing multiple accounts, preparing financial statements, and organizing a company’s budget. With so much skilled work to do, an accounting firm’s reputation is usually what brings it business, in the form of advertising agencies and other large companies. However, no matter how respected the accounting firm your corporation uses is, Murphy’s Law is still in effect. According to a 1996 article in Brandweek, McDonald’s accounting firm Leo Burnett made a $20 million media budget error when figuring out the company’s financial position. The shortfall in 1996 shaved 1000 gross points from McDonald’s ad schedule from September to August 1997, forcing them to cut back on their ad campaign for the fiscal year. With this observation, the necessity of skilled workers in the field of accounting becomes painfully obvious.
Second in the advertising trifecta, computer science is a wide-ranging field that is used by nearly every profession in some way. Even the receptionist who simply enters records into a database program on her computer is practicing computer science, albeit in a very simple form. However, the advertising world uses computer science for one purpose only: communication. While that sounds simple, the different ways it goes about communicating are very broad and varied.
One such example is the dissemination of information over the Internet. In this day and age, to be successful in the field of advertising, you must be Internet savvy. There are hardly any moderate to large sized corporations that do not have websites posted on the Internet for current and prospective customers to browse. They pay hefty sums of money for advertising agencies to create a website for them that will generate business worldwide. The programming language of the Internet is known as HTML (hyper-text markup language). While HTML is fairly simple to learn for the amateur, on the professional level, it is very difficult to master. Therefore, behind the scenes, someone must be there to know how to program a computer to output the type of