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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

Scene in Black x Essence Festival

Entered in Event & Experiential, Multicultural Community Engagement


Celebrating Essence Fest’s return this summer after a two-year hiatus, HBO Max planned to bring Scene in Black to New Orleans for the very first time. The goal of the campaign was to generate buzz and excitement surrounding the network's upcoming programming through immersive experiences, impactful conversations and talent integration. 

The takeover of scenic Chicory and Ace Hotel event spaces would produce six experiences that would highlight Black stories and storytellers on HBO Max. Throughout the three-day weekend, various HBO Max Talent, influencers, and VIP guests would have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with HBO Max programming through exclusive panels and screenings, enjoy Scene in Black photo moments, indulge in New Orleans-inspired specialty cocktails and bites, and most importantly, celebrate Black joy!

With Essence Fest being a jam packed weekend, the main challenge was creating memorable and buzzworthy experiences that wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle amongst the rest of the festival’s activations. With no shortage of programming, another challenge was determining how to showcase all the network’s talent and stories with multiple events. 

Strategy and Execution

Kicking off the Scene in Black weekend at Essence Fest, HBO Max curated a welcome mixer aimed at celebrating and uplifting the creative community of New Orleans. Following the kick-off the rest of the three-day Scene in Black experience included: 

HBO Max POV Brunch and Panel: The 75 person brunch highlighted the personal stories and experiences of behind-the-scenes HBO talent. 

“Curls & Conversation” with Sienna Naturals: Celebrity Hairstylist, Felicia Leatherwood and Sienna Naturals Co- Founder, Hannah Diop led a conversation on HBO Rap Sh!t’s hair styles and gave advice for future entrepreneurs and artists within the hair space.

HBO Max series Rap Sh!t: A show-themed nightclub inspired panel discussion and exclusive screening of the highly-anticipated new series. 

HBO Max Rap Sh!t Party: Scene in Black brought HBO Max’s Rap Sh!t to life with a takeover of The Ace Hotel with over 300 guests in attendance.

HBO Max RnB Brunch: To close out the epic weekend HBO hosted a creator’s brunch with over 120 guests in attendance. 


HBO Max’s Scene in Black - HBO’s home for Black stories tellers, talent, creators, change-agents, tastemakers, doers and dreamers presence at Essence Fest saw the brand produce six different experiences over the course of a three-day weekend that spoke directly to the brand’s key initiatives and upcoming programming while showcasing the network’s talent.  

Overall, the six Scene in Black events at Essence Festival were attended by over 715 guests and garnered over 296+ social posts. The three-day activation secured 15MM social media impressions and 16.5K engagements. The Scene in Black photobooth was also a big hit with over 1.2K photos taken throughout the weekend.


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