Creatives to Know 2011: Siavosh Zabeti and Alexander Kalchev

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Siavosh Zabeti and Alexander Kalchev
Siavosh Zabeti and Alexander Kalchev

Over the past several years, DDB Paris has produced some of the industry's most consistently ... unusual creative content. And we mean that in a good way.

The shop's print and TV work has tended toward the oddly compelling (and includes one of Creativity's favorite spots EVER, for Mr. Potato Head) but the agency has really shone for its "non-traditional" and frequently offbeat brand initiatives, such as promoting a fictitious underwater Paris-to-New York train route for rail company SNCF.

It was that idiosyncratic approach that drew the notice of two budding creatives, Alexander Kalchev and Siavosh Zabeti, who sought out and joined the agency in 2007.

Since, the duo has contributed significantly to the shop's oeuvre. Their creations include Chlorophyllo, a '70s luchador-themed interactive campaign whose essential gaming premise was to urge players to bash their keyboards furiously, a full-scale Wii game called Chaos at Home for Henkel's Go brand DIY products and, for Bouygues Telecom, an app to help Facebook users remember their most precious moments and then save them from digital oblivion by making a hardcover book out of them.

Last year, the team orchestrated an elaborate stunt for Voyages-SNCF, greeting five surprised train passengers with a customized in-station welcome, so, heavy-metal fan Sylvie, for example, arrived to an ear-splitting serenade from a hair band and Aurelien, a kung-fu enthusiast was met with two warring ninja factions.

They followed up that effort this year with the Escape Machine, a black box placed in Paris' Place du Palace Royal that transformed into an instant parade of delights, to promote SNCF's Escape Service. The team also worked with Unit 9 and respected anime director Koji Morimoto on an interactive anime to discourage teen smoking and, recently, created an outdoor billboard powered by Orange-generated electricity for Tropicana.

Bulgarian-born Kalchev studied at Miami Ad School in Hamburg and interned at agencies in Moscow, Brussels and Berlin. Zabeti, born to Iranian parents in Paris, was raised in Germany and, after attending Miami Ad School, did intern stints at in Stockholm, Amsterdam and New York. The pair worked together during their last quarter at school before joining DDB Paris.

Both creatives trained as art directors at ad school but work as a cross-discipline team. "To be able to produce (ideas) in the best way possible, you need to be able to write and design the project," says Zabeti.

While larger creative teams are becoming more common, these two work mainly with each other and approach each project without any assumptions. "We like to create what feels right for each client and their objective, often trying to rethink their media restrictions and leading them to a surprising execution in their category," says Kalchev.

As for DDB Paris' norm-busting M.O., Kalchev says it "comes from the fact that creation comes first and people aren't afraid of taking risks."

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