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Court is in session and, as usual, Judge Judy is in no-nonsense mode.
The famous TV magistrate, renamed Judge Beauty for e.l.f. Cosmetics‘ first national Super Bowl ad, is appalled that the defendant in front of her would spend $92 on makeup. She drops one of her well-known quips—“Beauty fades, dumb is forever”—and hands down a sentence of “$14 glowy skin.”
The plaintiff wins his argument, but doesn’t escape unscathed, with Judy declaring him “a putz.” Naturally, because the judge is always right, he can’t argue the point.
The scenario comes courtesy of e.l.f. Cosmetics with a double debut: the brand’s first national Super Bowl ad and Judy Sheindlin’s first commercial. A previous long-form teaser featured a number of familiar faces, including Suits stars Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty, but held back on the Sheindlin reveal until today.
Latching onto the current fascination with court dramas and other crime-related entertainment, parent company e.l.f. Beauty developed the spot with Sheindlin in mind, tossing out a Hail Mary that the legal expert would agree to participate.
“It’s true that she doesn’t have a huge appetite for these types of opportunities,” according to Brian Vaughan, partner and executive creative director of e.l.f. Beauty’s creative marketing and communications agency Shadow. “Judge Judy was always our No. 1 casting choice for this idea.”
After a care package of e.l.f. Cosmetics products for her to try, and a consultation with her granddaughter, Sheindlin signed on, telling the team that a Super Bowl commercial had been on her bucket list.
The brand and its agency could have kept the same jurisprudence theme if Sheindlin had passed, but they were determined to woo her.
“The ad was written specifically for her, and we were asking her to be Judge Judy, not to play a character,” which may have helped tip the scales, said Kory Marchisotto, CMO at e.l.f. Beauty. “And we included some of her Judy-isms in the script.”
The brand scored with consumers and critics with Jennifer Coolidge’s regional ad in 2023, snagging 60 billion impressions, 10 times the reach of any previous effort, and significantly boosting sales of the Power Grip Primer product, per Marchisotto.
“Women are traditionally underserved in the Big Game,” with beauty ads making up less than 1% of the event’s commercials despite women being nearly half the viewing audience, she added.
Following the Coolidge coup, which lifted brand awareness, engagement and other metrics, “all the signals told us to come back stronger, and lean in more.”
The team was aiming for breakthrough and memorable for the expanded national buy, anticipating competition in the category.
“We knew early on that we’d need to show up with a veteran attitude and outdo ourselves,” Vaughan said. “We wanted the campy daytime TV courtroom vibe, with a super eclectic cast of characters to achieve that silly, unrestrained, over-the-top Super Bowl sensibility.”
The result is a cheeky spot that’s brimming with boldface names. Aside from the mini-Suits reunion, there’s singer-songwriter and e.l.f. ambassador Meghan Trainor, comedian Benito Skinner, Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden, NFL player-turned sports analyst Emmanuel Acho and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant HeidiNCloset.
Easter eggs include Sheindlin’s granddaughter and e.l.f.’s attorney—the person responsible for securing the talent contracts during a tight three-week turnaround—in the jury box.
The beauty brand isn’t alone in stuffing its spot with stars. Bud Light, FanDuel, M&M’s, Booking.com and Uber are all planning multi-celebrity commercials for Super Bowl 58.
The intergenerational cast intends to target a wide swath of consumers from different demos, driving home an inclusive marketing message.
“So many Super Bowl ads smell of massive talent budgets, but they’re missing the intentionality or the creative ‘why,’” Vaughan said. “We were very deliberate in casting characters from across the cultural spectrum so everyone in the audience can have at least one ‘if you know you know’ fun moment of recognition.”
Zach Woods, an actor-writer known for HBO’s Silicon Valley and NBC’s The Office, directed the spot, which promotes Halo Glow Liquid Filter, a complexion booster that became the brand’s top-selling product last year with the help of TikTok and Trainor.
A 60-second hero spot, along with the 30-second ad running in the Big Game on Feb. 11, will get distribution for the next several months as part of e.l.f.’s broader marketing plan, Marchisotto said.
Shadow, with an assist from production partner Imposter, shot at a Los Angeles location full of legal-themed sets.
In addition to the main courtroom, the team used interrogation rooms, jail cells, judge’s chambers and other areas to capture social content with the cast. More than 50 assets came out of the two-day shoot, which will be parceled out over the coming months.
“We wanted to really relish our (slightly) longer runway to make sure we not only nailed the creative,” Vaughan said, “but also executed a proper media tease and launch, and built out a long-tail social strategy that would amplify the work well beyond the Big Game.”
For the latest Super Bowl 58 advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2024 Ad Tracker and the rest of our stories here. And join us on the evening of Feb. 11 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials.