BY Jose Villa, MediaPost

Everyone is talking these days about Hispanic consumer digital behavior. With the rapid growth in Hispanic online penetration over the last few years, there has been increased attention placed on how this group is different from the general market.

Over the course of the last eight years, my agency has had the opportunity to manage close to a hundred digital ad campaigns across a variety of consumer markets — including the Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and general markets. We’ve been in the unique position of having managed dozens of what we refer to at our agency as “multicultural” digital campaigns — campaigns that had more than one ethnic component. A large number of these campaigns were two-part campaigns — with a general market and Hispanic component.

Ask anyone who ever worked in our media department if they noticed anything about Hispanic digital media campaigns vis-à-vis general market campaigns, they will tell you the same thing — Hispanic digital campaigns (display, rich media, pre-roll and/or mobile — everything except paid search) always have higher click-thru rates. Not just by a little — but by a magnitude of two or three times. It does not matter if a campaign was regional or national.

The same goes for year-long campaigns vs. short campaigns (one to three months). The trend holds regardless of campaign length, industry, product category, or campaign type (direct response vs. branding). Without sharing client data, I can tell you the sample size is statistically significant. We’re talking about billions of online impressions over a decade of experience.

If you follow research on Hispanic digital marketing, you won’t be entirely surprised. For just as long as we’ve been running digital ad campaigns, research companies like Cheskin, eMarketer, and Mintel have found the Hispanic market is generally more receptive to online advertising than non-Hispanics. This is an offline characteristic that the Hispanic market that has ported online. However, the explanation provided is usually lackluster — something along the lines of “Hispanics are more curious” about products promoted through advertising.

Proponents of this offline parallel theory, present supporting data such as 45% of Hispanics are receptive to online ads vs. 41% of the general market (Mintel, Hispanics Online, 2009). But that’s only a 4-point difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Even when you slice the data to spotlight Spanish dominant Hispanics, they show a 51% receptiveness to online ads — only a 20-point difference. That does not explain the 200-300% difference we’ve seen in Hispanic response to digital ads.

I think there is something fundamentally different about online Hispanics, their attitude towards the Internet, and the companies that market to them online.

The Hispanics that are online (and clicking on our ads) tend to be the trendsetters, pioneers and tech experts. These Hispanics that would interact with online ads are likely the “experts” on everything digital — the Web, social networking, mobile devices — within their extended families. By targeting Hispanics online, we are targeting a larger percentage of these “adventurers” that are looking for something new and useful, and online ads provide an opportunity for that type of discovery.

I think the higher propensity to click on Web ads is also based on the fact that online Hispanics view the Internet through a different lens than non-Hispanics. For one, they trust the Internet more than do their general market counterparts. AOL Latino cited this in their 2010 Hispanic Cyberstudy, noting that Hispanics “love and trust the Internet.”

That’s a broad statement, but it articulates the fact that they are less jaded and generally see the Internet as something exciting. When you take into consideration the fact that most of these Web users are immigrants who moved here from Mexico and other Latin American countries looking for a better life, it is hard not to think that access to the Internet is another milestone in realizing the American dream for them.

Lastly, even in 2010, there are still only a relative few companies marketing to Hispanics online, and those that have are generally the only company in their industry or product category communicating to Hispanics digitally. That means less clutter, noise, a dominant share of voice and a distinct first mover advantage. Is it any wonder that a Hispanic digital ad for a consumer packaged good will get a higher click-thru rate than the same English non-Hispanic digital ad?

Maybe our agency just produces amazing Hispanic digital creative? Maybe we just develop spot-on media plans? I’d like to believe we do both, but it’s clear to me that these significantly higher Hispanic click-thru rates are just the tip of a huge marketing opportunity “iceberg.”