2 Minutes With … Alexander Kalchev, CCO of DDB Paris

On the beauty of finding ideas, solving problems and constantly learning new things

Alexander is the chief creative officer of DDB Paris. Born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, He joined DDB Paris directly after graduating from Miami Ad School Europe. At just 30, he became the youngest chief creative officer in the history of the agency.

We spent two minutes with Alexander to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Alexander, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I lived until I was 19. After studying all over Europe, I came to Paris, where I've been living for the last 17 years.

How you first realized you were creative.

I've always been bookish and curious. I never perceived myself as particularly creative and my trajectory was probably going to be academia. And then I found advertising and I fell in love with the beauty of finding ideas, solving problems and constantly learning new things.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

My mom. I still don't know where she stores all that knowledge in her brain. She's a translator and has her own publishing house and I've always loved the fact that she's driven by a pure love for the text versus the desire for creative ownership. It's a fascinating thing, taking somebody else's work and making it live in another language with your own words. You're invisible, yet essential. Just like a good creative director, I suppose.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

Reading Seneca's Letters to Lucilius and realizing that it's not what life throws at you that matters, but how you handle it.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Richard Misrach. Judith Joy Ross. Letizia Battaglia. People that live their work. Same for music—any early punk or hardcore band that lived the life—Black Flag, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Chain of Strength.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I watched X: The Unheard Music rockumentary—a wonderful doc on a band that is still ahead of its time. Band dynamics are so similar to creative departments. You have some really talented, different and complex people and when there's chemistry, you create something great. Sometimes things blow up, but that's also part of the process.

Your favorite fictional character.

Woland from The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. There’s nothing more interesting than a suave devil with a conscience.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I'm not very active on social media. But Benedict Evans is certainly worth following, even if it's his newsletter.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

I finally got around to exploring my kitchen. And I realized how much I love being around the people I work with. So probably I eat a bit better and I appreciate my people even more.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

Ubisoft, "The Baptism." This still gives me chills. It was a great script and Martin De Thurah took it to the next level. He is a true auteur of our industry and a mystery and joy to work with.

Honda, "The Centaur." We did this without any money but with a crazy, hard-working ethos. The bonds we forged on that beach 10 years ago still hold. Nothing like freezing wind and no plan B to make things happen.

VW, "Nothing." VW is such an intimidating brand to work on, when you have literally grown up on DDB VW ads. But I felt we did something that felt VW, yet different.

A recent project you're proud of.

The most recent thing I'm proud of is a film we did for TAG Heuer, "The Chase for Carrera," celebrating the Carrera 60th anniversary with Ryan Gosling. It's a first for a luxury watchmaking brand to break away from the category codes and it was so much fun to bring to life. Like all good work, it needed great creatives, great clients and a great production team. I still smile when I see it, 10,000 times in.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

This changes with time—but the Honda work that came out of WK London in the 2000s is still some of the most beautiful, emotional and intelligent body of work ever made. There's poetry and beauty in work like Asimo in the Museum...

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I have a tremendous respect for people doing brilliant creative work within big network agencies. I'm consistently jealous of the work that Rick Brim and his gang are doing over at Adam&Eve. Work for Frontline 19 was so simple, yet when you listen to all these beautiful messages that people recorded, it's more powerful than any other Covid campaign I've seen.

I love the independent journalism - New York Times - Questlove work that's coming out of Droga5 over the last few years. They created a visual language that is so unique. But what's really impressive is that instead of just doing the same thing over again, they're constantly reinventing it.

And like everyone else, I root for all the independents doing their own thing—places like Mischief, Uncommon and Mojo Supermarket deserve all the love they get.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Not considering myself as particularly creative.

Your biggest weakness.

Impatience. But I've learned to control it.

One thing that always makes you happy.

A good idea in the middle of a drab day.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Good people being complacent.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Film. Or therapy. I like to listen. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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