Social & Influencers

For e.l.f. Cosmetics, Jennifer Coolidge is the gift that keeps on giving

The brand’s Dirty Pillows lip kit, which started as a joke from a Super Bowl ad outtake, is sold out.
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Screenshot via e.l.f. Cosmetics/YouTube

· 4 min read

Nine months after Super Bowl 57, there aren’t many people who are still talking about it—with the exception of the e.l.f. Cosmetics marketing team (and the Kelce family, probably).

The beauty brand first partnered with The White Lotus actor Jennifer Coolidge for its Super Bowl ad earlier this year, a 30-second spot highlighting its Power Grip ultra-sticky makeup primer—during which Coolidge’s face gets stuck to her phone and a shower door.

A couple months later, Coolidge posted an outtake from filming the ad on social media in which she joked about creating her own lipstick with names like “dirty pillows” or “swollen.” On Sept. 27, Dirty Pillows became a reality in the form of a lip kit—and within a day the kit had sold out, according to Patrick O’Keefe, VP of integrated marketing communications at e.l.f.

There are a few reasons why e.l.f. executives suspect the Cooldige ad and product collaboration have grown so popular. One theory is that Coolidge and consumers—not the brand or its marketing execs—are calling the shots, O’Keefe and Brian Vaughan, partner and executive creative director at e.l.f.’s longtime agency Shadow, said.

Que sera

You know what they say about the best laid plans. Thankfully for e.l.f., its work with Coolidge after the Super Bowl could be “summed up in one word: unplanned,” Vaughan told us. From the start, the Super Bowl campaign, which was co-written by The White Lotus creator Mike White, was partially inspired by an Access Hollywood interview during which Coolidge said her dream role was to play a dolphin. (In the ad, Coolidge remarks that the primer makes her look like one, and then does an impression.)

During that shoot itself, Vaughan said Coolidge was riffing off the popular “get ready with me” video trend and cracking jokes. The team was careful not to overscript her, he said, and instead allowed her to largely improvise with only a few general directions.

When she made the “dirty pillows” joke, “we had a hunch that there was something magical there,” Vaughan said. That hunch was confirmed when the brand opted to share the outtake.

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“The real moment that sold it for us was the community response we saw when we posted it,” he said. Several of the comments on a TikTok video are from people saying they’d buy the then-fictional line of lip products. “That was all that we needed to be like, ‘Alright, let’s do this thing.’”

Coolidge cut

When the team got Coolidge back on set to film the ad for the Dirty Pillows lip kit, they once again ended up with more footage than they bargained for. The second campaign, which started running on social and digital channels on Sept. 27, features Coolidge’s character dreaming about a barista and kissing her pillow. When the man next to her in bed asks what she’s doing, she tells him she was having a nightmare about starving to death before coming across a bowl of marshmallows—“so I kissed each one before I ate it.”

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Coolidge improvised “no less than 10 different dream sequences,” Vaughan said, including one where she was “being chased by a Megalodon,” and another in which she encountered zombies during a hike.

“We lean in when we see those moments; we’re not afraid of it,” O’Keefe said. “We love when she riffs and says these crazy things that make sense. And then, you build on it and turn it into a really cool campaign…When you have a talent like Jennifer Coolidge, who is just so uniquely different in what she brings to the table, it’s just magic.”

There were even more punchlines that ended up on the cutting-room floor, according to Vaughan. After Dirty Pillows sold out,, e.l.f. put some of them to use in an ad promoting an upcoming restock. This one imagines Coolidge as a woman who “loves her makeup and her lipstick more than her husband,” he said.

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The fall campaign for Dirty Pillows is fairly risqué: The day before the first ad dropped, e.l.f. ran a teaser spot on its social channels made up of another outtake, this one of Coolidge giggling into her pillow. It ends with a tag that says, “something dirty is coming.”

The comical and campy vibes help justify the more suggestive word play, Vaughan said. In O’Keefe’s view, all that matters is that consumers seem to like the narrative e.l.f. has built around Coolidge. “When you read the comments, they’re like, ‘This is the kind of marketing I want to see; these are the things that make me stop and pause and listen,’” he said.

“I think if you want to continue to be relevant in culture,” he added, “these are the things that you need to be doing.”

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