Katy Hornaday: Endless Optimism

"I’m not the type of person who, if you bring me bad news, I'm going to bitch and moan about it," Katy shared with Adspire. “Instead, I’m going to dig in and I’m going to solve it."

It’s no secret this is why Business Insider named her one of the 30 Most Creative Womxn in Advertising.

Katy always considered herself a “major planner," so even while studying journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Katy knew portfolio school at Creative Circus was next on the list.

After expanding her creative portfolio and learning more about advertising down in Georgia, Hornaday landed a job at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Colorado as an entry-level copywriter, working on campaigns for clients that included VW, Amex, Baby Carrot, and Gap Inc.

The most badass (literally?) campaign she worked on was for Old Navy.

“My very first job, I worked on Old Navy and we launched this thing called the "Booty Reader" [slideshow below right],” Katy shared. “We built an algorithm that helped you understand the angles of a womxn’s waist-to-hip-to-thighs to determine which pair of jeans she would best fit into. It was a funny, cheeky experience.”

In 2010, they didn’t have the algorithm to create a “booty reader”, but Hornaday didn’t care she assembled a team that included developers and tech experts to make it happen. Even though that was created 10 years ago, online shopping is a must in today's society and the booty is still calling for those perfect pair of jeans only an algorithm like that could answer.

“It was a total boys club, and then Tiff came along.”

When it came to learning the ropes in the world of advertising, Katy had a pretty show-stopping role model, none other than ad-womxn legend Tiffany Rolfe. [Hype note: her feature is coming soon to Adspire]

“Tiff took no shit and she was awesome to me,” Katy shared. “When people ask me what it's like to be a womxn in advertising... I kind of came in and grew up under her. She didn’t worry about if she was a womxn or if she was a man, she just worried about if the work was good - everything else took care of itself. So that’s how I was trained to believe. Under her and working really hard I got promoted to senior [copywriter] pretty quickly.”

After Crispin, Hornaday brought her talent to Mullen in Boston, where she worked on projects for Zappos, Barnes and Noble NOOK, US Cellular, and JetBlue. Transitioning to the agency Barkley back in Missouri was a welcomed challenge, where she started as an Associate Creative Director and climbed the ladder to Executive Creative Director. And most recently, she topped the list as the Chief Creative Officer of Barkley (congrats, Katy!).

Surprisingly though, she actually never asked for a promotion until the leap to CCO.

Left: Katy honored the close relationship between weed and Wingstop with the brand's mesmerizing website takeover on 4/20 in 2017.

“I always worked for people who were great at identifying what they wanted in a leader and giving me titles,” Katy said. “ In fact, a lot of times, way earlier than I thought I would get. When I got promoted to ECD that was a solid 5 years before I thought that would happen. It really took me by surprise in a really big way.”

It is clear she has had some badass bosses who recognized talent and potential, but how did she stand out among the rest? How did she get noticed in the cutthroat world of advertising?

Simple: endless optimism.

“The people I want to be in the trenches with and the people who I want to be on my team are the ones who are optimistic problem solvers.”

“When people describe me to me, they often use words like ‘positive’ or ‘full of energy’ or ‘endlessly optimistic,'" Katy said. "I think that some of that, even when I’ve been working for other people, has really helped me out. I’m not the type of person, who if you bring me bad news, I’m going to bitch and moan about it. Instead, I’m going to dig in and I’m going to solve it. I think that’s a big thing, a lot of times even when I manage people.”

While at Barkley, Hornaday reworked an old favorite in the candy space, the Take5 bar.

“The brief was: you can’t use TV, and you have to make millennials fall in love with this candy bar," Katy said. "So it was awesome, because we had to use social media, experiences and influencers.”

Below: Katy took on this challenge & turned Take5 into an unforgettable experience at SXSW and Gov Ball in NYC. She was also behind a collaboration with Take5's biggest fan: Nick Kroll.

Success isn’t a diagonal line shooting up, it’s full of dips and stagnations. Tough times can feel endless, but it’s good to remember that all of us face failure.

“Recalibrate and find a plan. I’m also really good at crying to my husband," Katy said (me too, Katy, but to my dog). “You need an outlet to deal with your frustration or deal with your anxiety or worry. You have to be able to pause and figure out 'Okay, what am I going to do about it?'"

“It feels less like drinking from a fire hose. You just keep going.”

While being promoted to ECD and taking on a whole new department at Barkley, she was also caring for a newborn.

“You know that silly saying where they say it doesn’t get easier, you just get better?” Katy reflected. “It’s pretty damn true. You sort of get better at it and it feels less like drinking from a fire hose. You just keep going.”

Right: Another wildly successful campaign of Katy's was Lullacry for March of Dimes. It even won the Shorty Award for health and fitness in 2018.

Need more advice from this incredibly accomplished womxn? She doesn’t take any shit and she wants you to know that being a womxn is your secret weapon.

“If you’re good and you work hard, being a female is a giant asset,” Katy said. “I always say I feel like I got a lot of opportunities because agencies so proactively wanted to have more diverse voices in the room. I genuinely believe I got a first shot because I was a womxn, and the second shot I earned.”

“I just wish people would have told me that, because I feel like I went into the industry so timid about what it meant to be a womxn, versus feeling empowered by it.”


To see more of Katy and her chiefly creative work, check out her portfolio here.

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