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Tegwen Tucker is a Senior Account Manager at an advertising agency.
How would you characterise your current work?
I work in a full-service creative advertising agency – this means we do everything from the strategic planning for the account (i.e. brand strategy), coming up with the creative ideas and then making the actual ads. I manage all parts of this process and also manage the relationship between the agency and the client.
How do you feel about maths?
I love maths, although sadly in the past few years I’ve realised that I don’t have the same head for it I once had! I have fallen out of practice, particularly in the more abstract/complex stuff. As my son gets older though (he’s 6, but also loves maths and is ahead of his age group) I am really enjoying rediscovering my love for it!
What is it about your work that is mathematical?
The main mathematical parts of my job lie in budget management and fee scoping. I am responsible for the client’s production budget, which – with the help of a producer – I will divide between the assets that we need to make as well as any other third-party production or subcontractor costs, and a contingency. I also scope fees for clients, estimating hours required to carry out a project across the team and how this translates to the cold, hard cash that they have to pay us to do the job! This is important to both the client (they don’t want to pay for more time than they use) and to the agency (we don’t want to burn hours getting the job done when we can’t recoup the cost of that time from the client).
Part of my role is also to track how the budget is being spent and to watch for and prevent ‘scope creep’ – for example, clients sneakily adding deliverables, or creatives making a project more complex, without accounting for this in the budget or fee (an extra poster produced, an extra voice artist or actor used, for example). This means having a constant eye on the budget in your mind and having some awkward conversations!
Maths is also widely used ‘near’ me at work – i.e. in other roles in my team. Statistics and probability heavily influence what’s known as account planning, and play a huge role in media planning, too; for instance, we use statistical data widely to determine things like: What are the behaviours of our consumers? What do they care about? Where do we best reach them and what do we say to engage them?
How do you use maths, calculation or numeracy in your work? What tools do you use to help you?
I work in spreadsheets quite a lot. I also have a desk calculator that I wouldn’t be without. Old school.
Do you think maths is creative? If so, how?
I’m sure abstract maths can be creative, but not so much the maths I use. If the maths I use day to day was described as creative I would probably be in trouble!
In seriousness, though, although maths itself might not seem that creative, it has a myriad of intensely creative applications. Music and maths are closely linked, as are maths and things like cooking, architecture, design… In my role it’s the maths that often dictates the creativity that we produce (e.g., how do you produce x with only y as a budget? The solutions need to be creative!). A creative use of a budget – sitting and looking at the money allocated and dividing it different ways with varying effectiveness – will often heavily influence the outcome of a campaign brief.
Do you use or rely on any maths that you learnt in school?
I don’t think I have learned it anywhere else, so yes. Although again the maths I use is straightforward arithmetic rather than the more abstract maths I learned at school.
How would you change the school curriculum, if you had the chance? Why?
I don’t feel that I’m conversant enough with the curriculum to be in a position to comment on this. But I do think that – if it’s not already – practical applications of mathematics should be made abundantly clear. Likewise, students need to understand that there are roles where you can have the opportunity to use maths within a creative environment. I loved maths at school, but looked at opportunities to actively use maths in my career (as opposed to something I’d just have to understand to get by) as being limited to either working in finance or working in academia. I leaned away from these as I wanted to work in a creative/arts field. I know now that there are roles within even very creative industries – like advertising – where I can use my mathematical skills and still have an involvement in the creative side of the business. It’s the best of both worlds. ☺
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