During Hispanic Heritage Month and Beyond, Cross-Cultural Agency Sensis is Revolutionizing Marketing to Continue to Lift Latino Communities
During Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, cross-cultural agency Sensis is at the forefront of a marketing transformation, driving positive change for Latino communities. Founded 25 years ago by José Villa, the son of Cuban immigrants, Sensis emerged with the vision to reshape the advertising industry by empowering both mainstream and diverse communities, with a particular emphasis on the vibrant Latino population. José Villa, Founder and President of Sensis, provides his insight on creating the largest minority-owned cross-cultural agency in the country.
How did you build the largest Hispanic-owned cross-cultural agency in the nation?
We built Sensis slowly and steadily, over the course of 25 years, it was not an overnight success. We maintained consistency and resilience year after year, gradually expanding both our capabilities and our team at Sensis. Along this journey, we gained valuable insights, learning what works and what doesn’t. I believe that when you examine any endeavor, you should view it as an opportunity for learning and growth, recognizing that not every effort will yield success. Leveraging each moment to learn, adapt, and persist in trying the next approach is crucial. The key to our success lay in sustained growth; we never experienced a single monumental victory that transformed the agency overnight. While there were certainly a few key milestones, significant wins, new clients acquired, and fortunate events that went our way, none of them were game changers. Instead, it was a gradual progression, one step building upon the next.
What was the difference between building Sensis 25 years ago vs. doing it now?
The world has changed; 25 years ago, it was a different era in a different marketplace. Apart from the variance in market conditions, I seized every opportunity to grow and learn throughout that period. Looking back, I can say that ignorance was bliss when it came to how Sensis began. Now, I’m older and wiser, with a deeper understanding of the market compared to before. During the early years of Sensis, we operated with fewer resources, leaving a narrower margin for error. We couldn’t afford any mistakes, but we were driven by a greater mission: to amplify the voices of the brands we partnered with.
How do you foster inclusivity at Sensis?
At Sensis, we hire and attract individuals who may not necessarily fit the mold of a traditional advertising, marketing, or public relations professional. Throughout our history, we have excelled at bringing in individuals from diverse backgrounds, encompassing various cultures, ethnicities, and countries of origin. This diversity has always evolved organically; we have never imposed quotas or specific numerical targets for gender or Hispanic representation within the company. Instead, our approach is rooted in our work, which necessitates a diverse team. Given that we assist our clients in reaching diverse audiences, this diversity is intrinsic to our mission. Our intentional strategy has been to cast a wider net when seeking new hires, actively searching beyond the boundaries of the traditional industry. It is atypical for most advertising agencies to hire individuals with MBAs or those originating from entirely different industries compared to the conventional advertising professional.
How are you amplifying Hispanic voices during Hispanic Heritage Month?
This is just a glimpse of what we do at Sensis. Many of our clients engage us to assist with Hispanic outreach and marketing, and this remains consistent even during Hispanic Heritage Month. Currently, we are engaged in several exciting projects and campaigns aimed at amplifying Hispanic voices. One significant undertaking involves a major campaign for a pomegranate spirits client, with a specific focus on targeting Latinas and enhancing their brand visibility. We achieve this by organically employing Latina voices on their behalf. Additionally, we are collaborating with Davenport University to launch a program tailored to Hispanics in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the Midwest region. Our goal is to amplify the voices of Latinos by providing them with unique educational opportunities to advance their careers through a program we are actively helping to develop.
What are some campaigns you have worked on or are working on right now that amplify Latino voices and culture? What have you learned along the way?
We do a lot of work with Hispanic influencers at Sensis. One of the things we’ve done that is effective and unique is we’ve built our own influencer practice at the agency and our own direct relationships with Hispanic influencers to help them grow and expand their reach. This makes it a mutually beneficial relationship and helps elevate their voices as an important way for brands to reach Latinos in the digital space. It has also been great to be able to identify up and coming talent, influencers, or people that maybe don’t consider themselves to be an influencer in the traditional sense. It’s unique that we can amplify the voices that have a lot of credibility and cultural resonance in the community.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Latino community right now?
The Hispanic community has not been getting as much attention as it deserves from brands and from companies. Even though it’s the fastest growing market in the United States, there’s a lack of attention. It’s the second largest population group. Part of the challenge is that Hispanic communities are either being lumped in with other ethnic groups, and then lost in the noise or just not getting their proper do. There are also challenges around education, immigration, and more, but I think that’s a challenge that’s relevant to what I do in marketing and advertising.
What does Sensis’ future look like when it comes to inclusivity and diversity? How do you push for positive change?
Sensis’ future closely mirrors both our past and our present. As an exceptionally diverse company, fostering diversity has always been a natural part of our culture, and it will remain an integral aspect of our DNA. This isn’t an initiative, a special program, or an activity reserved for Hispanic Heritage Month; it’s ingrained in how we operate. Our perspective on diversity extends beyond ethnicity, encompassing a variety of ideas, life experiences, work backgrounds, and perspectives.
We believe in the importance of continually engaging with the Hispanic market and community throughout the year. While we actively participate in celebrations and collaborate with our clients on special projects during Hispanic Heritage Month, we firmly advocate for year-round recognition and celebration. This philosophy defines our approach, influencing not only our internal practices but also the guidance we provide to our clients.