This Ice Ice Billy originally appeared in Las Vegas Sun on November 1, 2011.

Seven billion looks like this: 7,000,000,000.

It’s a big number, to be sure. But it lacks a certain marketing pizazz. It’s not hooky enough to really catch on. It’s cumbersome and one of the few things it rhymes with is “million,” which is 6,999,000,000 steps backwards. It’s not even good for a decent jingle, even if the jingle is for a bank.

But the number is, however, significant in that as of Monday it represents Earth’s human population.

So applying the number to the marketing campaign designed to attract extra-terrestrial tourism is difficult at best. After all, if you were a life form that could melt another being’s brain with a stare and travel at light speed throughout the galaxy, does “Earth’s 7,000,000,000 Welcome You” advertising campaign change your mind about a timeshare in the Ozarks?

For earthlings, milestones such as these become less significant as the number grows.

One million of anything is normally a big deal, isn’t it? One million dollars. Thanks a million. Slumdog Millionaire. This movie, after all, did 141 of those one millions at the box office – at the risk of beating a million dead horses.

But the next one million living citizens on earth will be an unheralded lot. Visually alone, the number will be represented as 7,001,000,000. If you blink, you won’t even see the digit “one” buried in the string (hint: it’s between a zero and a comma).

It looks like a single Stan Laurel at an Oliver Hardy convention.

Luckily the surging population and its numeric representation aren’t completely inane. The Las Vegas Wranglers, for example, would have a very good season if its total fan count was just .00002857142 percent of the world’s current population. And the prospects are growing. The next one million people will drop that percentage to a paltry .00002856734.

Marketing, of course, is far more complex than this. If you think a .00000000408 percent advantage isn’t as great as it would originally appear, you would be correct. The reality is that the Wranglers must occasionally compete with many one-off events in Las Vegas. Many of them only need .00000285714 percent of the world’s population to succeed.

And that’s where it gets very difficult to get our hands around it all.

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