Three Questions for Steve Horn ’14

Steve Horn HeadshotName: Steve Horn

Title and Organization: Senior Copywriter at Translation

Graduation year and degree: 2014 BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science

Whether it’s trying to win the Tompkins Cup in J202 or the pitch contest in J345, to say J-Schoolers are competitive is an understatement. Just this year, students have received awards from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Milwaukee Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists and more. But the competitive spirit doesn’t end at graduation. J-School alums win awards for their excellent work all over the world, from local contests to the international stage. J-School alum Steve Horn is part of the team at Translation whose campaign “You Love Me” for Beats by Dr. Dre recently won two Grand Clio Awards in the Branded Entertainment and Content: Film – Scripted and the Film: 61 Seconds to Five Minutes categories. But for Horn, this recognition was about more than the award. The campaign brought important conversations about race to the forefront and challenged viewers to “not only celebrate the culture, but to elevate the lives behind it.” We caught up with Steve to hear about his experience working on this team.

When it comes to this award-winning work, what are you most proud of?

Making this piece for Beats was a career-defining moment for a ton of reasons and there’s a lot to be proud of. If I had to whittle it down (which I do, because that was your question), I’d say it was having the opportunity to be a part of all the difficult, important, and candid conversations necessary to make a project like this possible. Whether it was early discussions internally and with our clients about what it means and what it takes to transform their brand into a platform that amplifies the voices of people of color – or exchanging script edits and picking apart the meaning of every single word over the phone with Lena Waithe – or learning about (among so many other things) the history of the Haitian Revolution from my good friend and collaborator on the project, Castro Desroches. To be a part of an agency that brings the right people to the table and allows for unique opinions, backgrounds, and identities to shine through is really special. I’m proud that I had a seat in that (Zoom) room full of incredibly dedicated people.

What’s the best advice you have for a J-School student who wants to do what you do?

If you want to work as a creative in the advertising industry, the best thing to do is make as much creative work as humanly possible before graduation. Go all-out and shoot video for your J345 project, make a bunch of funny radio ads for your show on WSUM, design a series of posters for The Plaza (or whatever your favorite local bar is), apply for an internship at one of the great agencies in Madison (shoutout to Planet Propaganda), etc. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do on top of all the other course work, socializing, and part-time jobs it takes to get through the J-School. But it’s worth it. Anything you can add to a portfolio that you’re proud of will set you apart when you look for your first gig. And it might mean not having to go to portfolio school after undergrad.

What is your favorite J-School memory?

Well, I met my fiance in J345 (shoutout to Stacy Forster). So I have to say that. We were paired up as co-creative directors because of an odd number of students (shoutout to math). I was also lucky enough to have taken a class with Prof. Baughman and I’ll always remember his final lecture when he told me, 1) I should take someone I love to Montreal, 2) I should learn which side of the plate the knife and fork go on, and 3) to please shower more because I didn’t look like a college graduate with unkempt, greasy hair and a baggy, wrinkled Tina Turner t-shirt. I took all 3 pieces of advice. And look at me now. I have a fiance.