Is Rudy Willingham a marketing master, an artist, or a short-form video creator with more than 3 million followers on TikTok and over a quarter million on Instagram? The answer is yes. Rudy creates playful, engaging work that effortlessly functions across platforms—social channels, TV ads, print ads, billboards, guerrilla marketing, and so on. He tends to create using one of four techniques: street art (transforming a neighborhood fire hydrant into Homer Simpson, for example); stop motion, printing and cutting nearly frame of the video himself; forced perspective, which involves holding up a cutout in front of a large object, like a building, to create an optical illusion; and cutouts, in which he literally removes sections of a portrait and fills the voids with something beautiful found in real life, like flowers or a sunset.
Rudy spent a decade as an advertising copywriter, and he knows from experience how to deliver for clients. And yet his work never feels calculated. His content is intentionally low-fi, his primary tools being paper, scissors, and his imagination. Using Photoshop would be faster, but then he’d lose what makes his work so special: its unexpectedness, charm, and humanity. Because rather than impress people, Rudy wants to connect with them.
And connect he does: NBC Sports, ESPN, Reddit, and even a news outlet in Australia took note of a visual pun Rudy created for a Seattle Seahawks elevator (it involved a cutout football pasted to the door, which passed the pigskin back and forth between cutouts of players Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett as the door opened and closed). A TV station in Seattle, where Rudy’s based, did a segment on how he brought “landmarks and laughter to the internet” with just “a camera and a cutout.” Rudy paid tribute to Kobe Bryant in a stop-motion video that now ranks among his most popular pieces of content. And he has celebrated subjects ranging from Serena Williams, Dr. Fauci, Prince, Harry Potter, and twerking to his young daughter and his experience as a parent. “Social media can be a negative place sometimes,” notes Rudy, whose clients include Starbucks, Puma, Reebok, Epson, Jimmy John’s, Cisco, United Airlines, and New Balance. “I try to add a pop of positivity to people’s feeds to make them smile and brighten their day.”