by Blake Herzog
Tracey Horn grew up near the heart of the New York advertising world, with a father who spent 25 years in the business. In 2020 she’s celebrating 25 years heading Helken & Horn Advertising Agency in the Greater Prescott advertising world, considerably smaller but no less satisfying.
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. It seems like yesterday that we started the agency in a small downtown apartment. This community and the business owners we work with have been really good to us and I truly still love what I do,” she says, “And I hope I can do another 25!”
Horn moved to Tucson with her family as a teen after her dad retired. Because she missed its seasons, she was all set to go back and carve her own path in that New York ad industry when she graduated from the University of Arizona in 1994.
But since she’d never made it north of Phoenix during her eight years in Arizona, she decided she had to see the Grand Canyon.
“I happened to drive through Prescott and I went, wait a minute, what is this? I fell in love with it, like a lot of people do. “And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this reminds me of the historical and quaint towns back East. You know, I need to find a job here,’” she says.
After a year working for a struggling agency, Horn met Robin Helken, a copywriter, and they launched Helken & Horn in August 1995. Helken left town two years later, while Horn has kept the firm going under that name by herself.
“When I say all by myself, I’m the responsible party, but there is no way I could have accomplished everything these past twenty five years without people like my writers, designers & creative art directors. Without all the creative team around me, there’s no way I would be where I am today.”
A full-service ad agency
Horn doesn’t have any staff, instead turning to her go-to freelancers for each particular job, depending on their fields of expertise.
And there are a lot of jobs — print ads, TV and radio commercials, longer-form video, logos and other branding, plus websites, online ads, SEO and social media — all for local businesses, plus political campaigns for state Sen. Karen Fann, Yavapai County Supervisor Rowle Simmons and Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli among others. She was also instrumental in helping on the Prop 443 initiative.
Horn prefers working in the “offline” formats to online, though the latter has been particularly useful for getting word out about all the shutdowns, reopenings and other shifts her clients have had to deal with this year.
“It’s a great, instant way to market, but I still find happiness in the traditional because it’s more creative to me than ads that you see flat on the screen. And I think traditional is here to stay, especially in our communities, because people still like to pick up a newspaper, and they still like to listen to their favorite radio station here,” she says.
Horn is especially proud of her role in launching downtown Prescott’s New Year’s Eve Boot Drop tradition, which was sparked by Horn’s memories of the Times Square ball drop and Flagstaff’s pine cone version.
“I was born on New Year’s Day, so my friends would always drag me out on New Year’s Eve for my birthday. There just weren’t too many festivities going on and I felt Prescott was prime for a new holiday event,” she says.
She oversaw the first 40-foot drop of the 6-foot boot in 2011, which drew 4,000. After two more years she turned it over to M&M entertainment, but still volunteers every year. Attendance has grown to 10,000.
But watching her clients’ sales jump remains her most gratifying work: “I get to really experience a variety of businesses and appreciate what they go through on a day-to -day basis to keep going. It’s their baby, it’s their passion. But I get to go in and be a part of that. And that’s pretty darn cool.”