Creatives Now: Calle and Pelle Sjönell

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Sitting in their office at BBH, New York, Swedish brothers and creative teammates Pelle (right) and Calle (left) Sjönell share a space without desks, opting instead for three couches (IKEA, probably) and a few tables. From the other side of their room's sliding glass door, they almost appear to be part of a strange display. But, as co-creative directors on Axe, they're much more important to the agency than decoration. The two brothers grew up in Stockholm, the children of academics. Pelle, 35, moved into traditional advertising and Calle, 36, into the interactive sphere, making them—by dint of origin, experience, and, well, DNA—one of the truly integrated teams. Initially, "we didn't work together," says Pelle, the former co-owner/creative director of King, Stockholm, an agency he founded in 1994 and helped run until coming to the States in 2006. "You were doing the computer stuff and I was doing to the classic ad stuff," he adds, looking to his brother. "I don't think we realized what you did was advertising until much later."

Pelle knew Calle was doing ads when his brother's work was getting more attention, most notably a successful Lycos campaign, "Make Love Not Spam," which revolved around a screensaver that inundated spammers' homepages with requests to promote Lycos' SprayMail's spam blocking capabilities. "Traditional advertising and making people do stuff voluntarily [on the web], those things have to come together," Calle says. He founded interactive boutique Moonwalk in 1996, making websites and CD-ROMs originally, evolving to work with agencies and then clients directly running a company called Starring. The Sjönells toyed with opening their own agency, but in the end decided to leave Sweden, work for someone else and not have to worry about salaries or being in charge—just do the creative. "Have control over the important part," Pelle says.

The two arrived in the U.S. in June of 2006 to work as GCDs at Fallon, Minneapolis, where Mother, New York co-founders Paul Malmstrom and Linus Karlsson made their splash as "The Swedes." "We were inspired by people like Traktor and Linus and Paul; they showed us it was possible," Pelle says. "Fallon was a very important place for us to go first and learn about real America. You need to know about how the American consumers actually are; you don't learn that in Manhattan." In their year at Fallon, the two were involved in numerous pitches and also oversaw the memorable "Infinite Oz" website for the Sci-Fi channel's Tin Man series launch.

Since arriving at BBH, New York in August '07, the Sjönells have made progress, heading up the shop's Axe work, already debuting the "Peel" spot and tongue-in-cheek print ads imagining the power of the Axe effect on Hillary Clinton. They'll also be doing work for NYC & Company. "BBH is a modern, new agency with British professionalism at its core; for us to be able to work here the way we want to work is a great match," Pelle says. Count on the traffic into their lounge/office to stay steady. "Instead of having two desks, when everyone stands around we can explore things in more depth," says Calle. "I don't know if it's a Swedish thing, but [you learn more] from working that way," his brother adds. "The more smart people in the same room, the better the ideas."
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