The &Rosàs head of business on her global citizenship, ‘flip-flopping’ between sports and advertising and her healthy relationship with connectedness
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a more complicated concept of nationality than &Rosàs head of business Kirsten Haack. Born in Taiwan to an Argentine-Danish father and a British-South African mother, she moved every two years while she was growing up. Which makes it all the more meaningful when she explains her love for Barcelona - the city that’s been her home since 2004.
&Rosàs is an independent creative agency with a particular focus on strategy, making some of the most exciting work in the Spanish market right now. Its philosophy is to be a creative partner for its clients, who don’t only want pieces of communication, but want to transform their brand.
As the agency opens a new Madrid office, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Kirsten, who will continue to uphold standards in &Rosàs’ Barcelona office.
LBB> You were born in Taiwan with Argentine, Danish, British and South African heritage. Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
Kirsten> Taiwan, Argentina, Venezuela, Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Haslemere, Cranleigh, London, Boston, New York, Orange (Côte du Rhone) and Barcelona. I’ve always been the new girl, with a strange accent and the idea of belonging was directly correlated to my family and less with my surroundings like school and circle of friends. So, I could say that my childhood was a very interesting, diverse one, filled with new experiences and colour. But there was always a little tinge of solitude and feeling as though I were an outsider looking in.
LBB> Having lived all over the world. What is your conception of nationality like? Do you feel like a 'global citizen'?
Kirsten> I can't fathom life in any other way but as a global citizen, and in many ways, it has given me a global view beyond cultures and languages. When you are in leadership positions it's important to be able to take that wide view on situations and listen to what is not being said as well as what is being said. I think having the chance to be that person who has travelled so much since childhood gives you those skills to extrapolate better, to have the patience to listen and try and understand and then search for different approaches to find solutions.
LBB> You went to school in the UK and then to college in Boston, Massachusetts. What were those experiences like?
Kirsten> Ironically in the UK I was viewed as ‘the Spanish girl’ as when I moved there when I was 11, I had a very strong Spanish accent and my English was not that good. However, when I moved to Boston, to Northeastern University, I was nick-named Ms Kensington because of my British accent. In Boston I had the chance to double major in English and Political Science and a minor in African American studies. It was fascinating to engage on so many different layers of learning.
LBB> What do you remember about your early thoughts on advertising? Were you interested from an early age?
Kirsten> Well honestly, I didn't have much of an opinion about advertising at an early age. I was usually in a country that I either didn't speak the language (Taiwan) or the ad industry was not fully developed as we know it today or understood as in markets like the US or UK. My focus however has mainly been in communications as an overarching need; understanding concepts and being able to synthesise them, be it in a written form, in storytelling, in action, advertising or PR. At the end of the day my skills are being used to be able to do that. That has been one of my passions; bridging gaps where miscommunications could possibly happen.
LBB> What attracted you to Barcelona as a city? And what has kept you there?
Kirsten> What isn't there to be attracted to in this city? No matter where I go when I say I live in Barcelona I am met with the same reaction. It's an open city, a modern city, has been traditionally a vanguard city. Clients across the world love having their agency based out of Barcelona. So I wouldn't change it for the world. Also my wonderful husband is from Barcelona so it’s my home.
LBB> You've worked in PR for the NBA and Euroleague Basketball. Is basketball a passion of yours or did you just end up in it?
Kirsten> I’d say that sports has always been a passion for me - from basketball, to horse riding, I even dabbled in martial arts and boxing on a competitive level. But really what better place to start working than a place like the NBA where they have changed the way professional sport is marketed?
LBB> When did you first consider going into advertising as a career?
Kirsten> I have flip flopped between pro sports and advertising, and I don't think it would be fair for me to say that I am married to advertising. I find that limiting. I apply my skills to the project I have in front of me and bring the best of my knowhow to that project. That is important in building a relationship with a client. It’s true that &Rosàs is an ad agency, but we try to be more than just that for a client. We are a partner who is there to advise and guide on brand building. Sometimes a client needs a PR solution rather than an ad, and if I am not honest in saying so then I am not doing my job.
LBB> What would you say are the projects or experiences in your career from which you learned the most?
Kirsten> I think every experience offers learnings. It just depends at what point in your life you are at and what experience you are having or seeking to have. From being the core PR team that led Pau Gasol [the Spanish professional basketball player] on his rookie year, or working on a project to communicate and position the launch of a new city in Saudi Arabia. Two extremes that offered me very different self-awareness and growth opportunities.
LBB> Why did you choose &Rosàs in 2012? What is it about the agency that you particularly like?
Kirsten> I think we basically clicked and immediately understood each other. The way we understand our team, our work… In 2012 the agency was going through a difficult time as one of the founding partners had decided to leave the agency, however I knew a lot of the team from previous touchpoints and I felt, and continue feeling, a great respect for Jordi [Rosàs, president], Isahac [Oliver, ECD] and Nacho [Ginestra, head of art]. I think the agency has a great legacy and an ambition of becoming the most international independent agency in Spain. That is my role, to make the agency grow without any hang ups, and to globalise the great talent that we have here at the agency.
LBB> Which recent projects are you most proud of working on?
Kirsten> I think every project that comes across our desks needs to be the one that rips your heart out. If you don't view it that way then what's the point?
LBB> What are your main aims and ambitions for &Rosàs?
Kirsten> I want &Rosàs to start believing, acting and being the great amazing agency it actually is. I think it's important that other markets, not only the Spanish market where we already have a strong reputation, know that &Rosàs offers world-class talent and creative, and yet maintains the freshness of an independent agency.
LBB> You spoke to us recently about the women's strike in Spain. How does the ad industry there need to change to promote gender diversity?
Kirsten> I think there is a lot of work to be done but we could start with women being in leadership positions to make the call. That would be nice.
LBB> What do you like to do in your spare time? Any current obsessions or passions?
Kirsten> I've managed to find a balance in my life which I try and respect to the maximum. On weekends I escape the city and head up to the Pyrenees with my husband and my dog and we spend our weekend hiking, camping, enjoying wild animals living their lives and generally avoiding any kind of connectedness (other than with each other, ourselves and nature). It is what keeps me sane and creative.