Kirk Ruhnke

The best creatives know how to spring the element of surprise. Kirk’s a writer who just showed up at an art director’s job interview at what was then Frankenberry, Laughlin & Constable. His partner, Ken Butts, got an interview with John Constable by sending in three sequential photos of himself and Kirk – 1. Sitting on director’s chairs looking intently at the camera; 2. Slouching downward half on and half off the chairs; and 3. Lying prone on the ground. The caption read, “if you don’t hire us, we’ll just die.” Kirk and Ken both got surprises in return. Kirk was hired that day and John didn’t hire Ken. Luckily, the super K team of Kirk and Ken were re-united as soon as John had an opening. Luckier still were the legion of art directors who had the good fortune to team up with Kirk over four decades. To no one’s surprise, he helped win business, more awards than one could count and the respect of everyone he worked with and the clients he worked for.

Kirk worked on beer brands large and small from Leinenkugels to Miller Lite. Sargento Cheese. And Hillshire Farm sausage. A balanced diet for a life-long cheese head. His creative appetite also helped spread Milwaukee’s reputation for quality work across the country. National accounts like Firestone, Sentry Insurance, OshKosh B’Gosh, Florsheim, as well as major retailers, financial institutions, healthcare networks, dot coms, dot govs and dot edus. He dotted the iiis and crossed the ttts of every kind of advertising copy imaginable – from coupon ads to high concept network television.

In the time it took for most creatives to explain why they didn’t have time, product knowledge, or a clear enough brief to write that non-profit brochure, Kirk just did it – to coin a phrase. A task he was also particularly good at. Even in semi-retirement, Kirk can still pull a surprise. He coined the phrase, “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” And of course, then went on to prove that it just might be with some terrific writing. Kirk is for everyone. Those with a brand and a budget even more so.