If you’ve ever visited the website of a prescription medication or picked up a brochure from your doctor’s office, you’ve seen the kind of work that Kim Hooper does. And she’s proof that math and writing are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
As a senior copywriter for an advertising agency, Kim writes brochures, websites and other copy that helps promote a brand or a product. Since her agency’s primary client is a pharmaceutical company, much of her writing is science-based.
When do you use basic math in your job?
Much of my job involves scanning through research papers about specific drugs and interpreting clinical data in a “sexy,” Madison Avenue way. This tends to involve a bit of math. For example, let’s say we want to point out that our drug is really successful with women over 40 years old. I will look through the demographic tables in the clinical study to create a compelling factoid. Let’s also say that out of 100 women, 60 are over 40 years old. So, when writing a piece, I may have a big headline that says something like, “60% of women in the clinical study were over 40 years old.”
Most of the math I do involves basic addition or subtraction and percentage calculations. Very often, I’ll do percentage calculations for side-effects data. So if 3 patients out of 150 in the clinical study experienced side effects, I’ll take this fact and make sure to call out that 98% of patients did not experience side effects.
Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?
I do use the calculator built into my PC to double check my work. But I almost always have to do “margin math,” meaning I show my calculations on paper so the client’s regulatory committee can review them.
How do you think math helps you do your job better?
Math keeps my left brain strong. In advertising, the right brain is very important. This is a creative business. We’re trying to find interesting, compelling ways to communicate product messages that may not be that thrilling at first glance. My left brain can help make the messages thrilling. Numbers are very appealing to consumers. If they can see information broken down into easy-to-understand percentages, for example, they may be more likely to try our medication over another one.
How comfortable are you with math?
I’ve always been a bit of a math nerd, and I went all the way through Advanced Placement Calculus in high school. In fact, it was really difficult for me to choose a major in college because I loved math and science and I also loved the arts. For a short time, I double-majored in genetics and psychology. I ended up majoring in communications, which seemed broad enough for me to explore a number of career options. I just happened to fall into a career that makes use of both sides of my brain, which I love. I really enjoy sifting through data and doing the math necessary to make facts come to life.
I think we all get a little rusty if we don’t use math regularly, but it’s been part of my job for a number of years now. There’s no way I could do calculus again, but I have no problem doing basic math. I enjoy it.
Kim Hooper is an advertising copywriter by day, novelist by night. Get to know her work at KimHooperWrites.com.
Do you have questions for Kim? If so, ask them in the comments section!