Creatives Now: Craig Allen & Eric Kallman

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Eric Kallman (left) and Craig Allen (right) can't manage to please their parents. "It's funny because we won at D&AD last year, which was such a huge honor," says Allen. "But I called my parents and they're like, 'Cool. . . but no Emmy?'" Although their closest family members might not fully register the extent of the pair's success, the TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York creative team has gotten plenty of appreciation from the ad community. Thanks to outrageous Skittles characters like a man with prehensile beard, a candy Midas who transforms anything he touches into the fruity treats and a guy who squirts sour milk from his teats, among others, they've experienced the rainbow of industry awards and recognition—D&AD and One Show Pencils, Cannes Lions and spots on Creativity's most awarded copywriter and art director lists.

San Francisco native Kallman, 28, originally studied journalism and had been a local Southern California host of NPR before he attended ad school in S.F. and joined the N.Y. shop, while Texas-born Allen, 27, a University of Texas/Austin grad, was one of the original members of TBWA worldwide CD John Hunt's Young Blood creative internship program. The pair became a team three years ago and have gone on to create some of the weirdest, most controversial, and most watched commercials of the agency's confectionary collection: besides "Beard" and "Touch," they're also behind the infamous Snickers "Mechanics" man kiss Super Bowl spot, and, most recently, "Piñata," about a battered and bruised papier-mâché fellow who stands up to his abusers in a recent product launch commercial for chocolate Skittles.

The duo admits it wasn't until the latter—the sixth Skittles spot they've produced in three years—that they felt confident about the delicate formula of absurdity, magic and strategy that goes into the client's work. "Before, we'd write as much as we could and show it all to [former GCDs] Scott [Vitrone] and Ian [Reichenthal], hoping one of them would be it. It took us three years to kind of know, Hey, this one might be something." Even though they've finally "gotten it," that doesn't make things any easier. "It's funny because people think, Candy, that's so simple," adds Allen. "We kind of love and dread every year when the Skittles briefs come around because it's usually like a couple months of writing scripts, almost getting there and not getting there. It's really hard to do."

The pair credits former ECD Gerry Graf for creating a culture that provided opportunities for them to thrive creatively, and also gives a strong nod to Vitrone and Reichenthal for stewarding the brand's unique voice. Currently, Allen and Kallman are working on a new Snickers campaign and will soon debut the final spot of the Graf/Reichenthal/Vitrone era, "Tailor." Now that their mentors have left the agency—Graf, to head up Saatchi, New York; Vitrone and Reichenthal, to become ECDs at Y&R—and Mark Figliulo, previously CCO at Y&R/Chicago, is in final talks to become the new leader at TBWA, N.Y., no doubt eyes will be on Allen and Kallman to uphold the shop's candy legacy. "Scott and Ian are gone and we miss them to death, and we miss Gerry to death, but life goes on because we have a ton of work in front of us," Kallman says. "We're not only knee deep in the nontraditional Skittles ideas, we're also neck deep in working on a whole new Snickers campaign, so our plates are more than full. That's where our minds are first and foremost everyday."

Read on for an update on what Kallman and Allen are up to now.
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