If you don’t know much about the history and culture surrounding bachata music, you’re not alone. The genre, which originated in the Dominican Republic, has a largely untold story in the U.S. But HBO Max Pa’lante sought to remedy that with its week-long House of Bachata pop-up in Washington Heights, NY, the heart of the Dominican diaspora. Celebrating the debuts of the “Romeo Santos: King Of Bachata” documentary and “Romeo Santos: Utopia Live From MetLife Stadium” concert on its platform, the brand transported attendees to iconic Dominican cultural settings, provided an in-depth history of bachata music, offered daily programming and delivered a first-of-its-kind hologram experience. Needless to say, from July 30 to Aug. 6, music was in the air in Upper Manhattan.
The pop-up experience shined a light not only on HBO Max’s bachata-centric documentary and concert, which debuted July 30, but on its social-first audience initiative, HBO Max Pa’lante. The platform was designed to elevate Latinx creatives and highlight HBO Max’s Latinx-focused content.
- Anatomy of a Bodega: Altos Tequila Events Celebrate the Spirit of La Familia
- Bacardi’s Havana Club Leverages Immersive Theater to Bring its Heritage to Life
“We launched these social channels on the vision of empowerment, resilience, hope and always moving our community forward,” says Jessica Vargas, director-multicultural marketing at HBO Max. “So we embrace being fully Latinx and fully American without having to sacrifice any part of one’s identity. Our goal here is to create a familiar rapport with our Latinx consumers by spotlighting Latinx creatives and driving awareness of the culturally relevant programming across HBO Max.”
To deliver on its objectives, HBO Max Pa’lante leveraged the House of Bachata pop-up to help the Latinx community and its allies learn the untold cultural history behind bachata music and to “proudly elevate it,” Vargas says. To that end, the brand enlisted the help of bachata icon Romeo Santos, the star of the new documentary and concert. Santos couldn’t make it to New York City for the event, so the brand offered the next best thing: a hologram of Santos warmly welcoming attendees to the experience. Made possible by PORTL’s holoportation technology, the engagement marked the first time a Latinx artist took holographic form. To boot, HBO Max Pa’lante recreated a room from the Santos documentary in the back of the pop-up space, going into painstaking detail to get the vibe just right, right down to the Dominican candy peppering the space.
In addition to the room installation and futuristic welcome, attendees experienced vignettes that transported them to typical Latinx haunts. The exterior of the pop-up space, for instance, looked like a typical bodega from the outside, but led to an authentic, speakeasy-style colmado (a Dominican convenience store) featuring a fridge filled with beverages and other food items popular in the Dominican Republic. There was also a fully-functioning salon and barbershop featuring Dominican flag-inspired décor. To keep the event COVID-friendly, attendees RSVP’d in advance to lock down a House of Bachata visitation window.
But for HBO Max Pa’lante, the most important stop on the attendee journey was a history wall, curated in partnership with the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, depicting a timeline of bachata music that included memorabilia donated by genre artists. To dig deeper, attendees could also scan QR codes on the wall to summon video content featuring top bachata artists and their stories.
Daily programming was also an essential part of the strategy. HBO Max Pa’lante offered a bachata instrument class for kids to teach them about genre instruments like the güira, a bachata dance class, an open mic night for community poets, free haircuts for kids, and consultations with Afro-Latina hair stylist Miss Rizos, who educated attendees on curly hair and the power of wearing your “crown” proudly. A handful of screenings of “Romeo Santos: King Of Bachata” was also part of the mix.
Rounding out the House of Bachata’s experiential touchpoints were daily happy hours presented by brand partner Presidente beer, which additionally provided free brews during the opening night documentary screening and the bachata dance class.
“There are so many voices and faces in bachata’s 60-plus years of history that have not been recognized and they deserve it,” says Vargas. “So we opened [the pop-up] to the public for seven days to give the entire New York City community, from Latinx [consumers] to allies, an opportunity to learn about the genre and gain a deeper appreciation of bachata and Dominican culture. Usually, a budget doesn’t stretch that far, but we really wanted to allow the community to come in and engage, where usually we only do private press and influencer premieres and screenings. So this was a special one for us and we wanted everyone to touch it.” Agencies: MTW Agency, Beverly Hills, CA (creative, partnerships); PORTL, Los Angeles (holoportation technology).
Step Inside the House of Bachata:
Photo credit: HBO Max Pa’lante