Whole Foods Debuts Whimsical Stop-Motion Ads by TikTok Creator

Rudy Willingham constructs 'Be healthy. Be happy. Be whole'

In a prior life, Seattle-based Rudy Willingham worked at agencies such as WongDoody and DNA Seattle on brands like Amazon, T-Mobile and Alaska Airlines. These days, he's a content creator using primarily forced perspective, street art and stop-motion video that's led to work for the NBA, Volvo, Bungie, Hasbro and ESPN.

Willingham has amassed 382,000 followers on Instagram and 4.2 million on TikTok. A tribute he created to mark the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's death was seen by Will Chau, global creative director at Whole Foods Market, leading to "Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole," a national TV campaign Willingham directed for the brand.

Ironically, Chau saw the TikTok Bryant tribute ... on LinkedIn.

"I was mesmerized by his work," says Chau. "It looked so analog—handmade, hand-tooled. These days, everything looks so digital."

Comprised of six spots—two :30s and four :15s—the creative features paper cutouts of families swinging at a park, doing yoga and dancing to "Every Beat of My Heart," by the Du-Ettes. Stop-motion video and an ever-changing background of healthy greens, fruits, vegetables and fish at Whole Foods emphasizes the importance of fueling your body with healthy foods.

Whole Foods | Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. 1
Whole Foods | Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. 2

"The process [prior to shooting the ads] takes a long time. There were 500-600 cutouts," says Willingham. "The printing and cutting took two to three weeks. It's an intensive process. No digital effects. What shot should go over what background? I kept the cutouts close when transporting them from Seattle to Los Angeles. That was the hardest thing. When the background and lighting are good, my job is easy."

The shoot took place over two nights inside a Whole Foods store, and fun fact, when you do a night shoot in a grocery store, it's BYOF (bring your own food).

"There's a sense of wellbeing in Whole Foods. It's cliché—there's a bounce in people's steps," Chau tells Muse. "When you come into Whole Foods, it's more than clicking off a chore to do. Consumers are shopping how they live their life, not out necessity. We wanted to give the feeling that the ads were little music videos. It felt tactile, lo-fi. Work doesn't have to live just on social."

It's a sentiment not lost on someone who scored this gig because of LinkedIn and has an online following in the millions.

"There's still a level of prestige in traditional media that you don't get online," says Willingham. "There's still a place for TV! Many people think it's all online, but there's room for that."

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