By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

January 9, 2024 | 5 min read

The popular cosmetics label is airing a 15-minute true crime-style parody film, which will stream on Amazon Freevee and Youtube – and will also appear in AMC theaters ahead of Paramount’s new Mean Girls adaptation.

Elf Cosmetics today released an intense 15-minute true crime-style mockumentary, Cosmetic Criminals, which traces the suspenseful story of a makeup thief – and a house full of suspects, each with their own potential motives.

The parody film stars actor and comedian Niecy Nash Betts, Veep actor Nelson Franklin and Broadway actor and NCIS star Necar Zadegan. It was directed by Oscar-nominated Russian Doll director Alex Buono.

The brand developed the film, which is airing on Amazon’s free, ad-supported video platform Freevee, in response to an all-too-common customer insight: the tendency for Elf products to go ‘missing’ under mysterious circumstances around friends and family.

“Our Elf community was the first to tell us about widespread Elf-pinching within their households,” Laurie Lam, the company’s chief brand officer, said in a statement today. “Borrowing Elf holy grails from family and friends without the intention of returning … is a global phenomenon – between siblings, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives – even grandparents are not spared. This insight from our community sparked an incredible idea we had to act on.”

This thievery is unsurprising, Lam said, considering that Elf, according to recent data from investment banking firm Piper Sandler, is US Gen Zers’ favorite cosmetics brand.

Aside from airing on Amazon Freevee, the short film will make a cinematic debut in select AMC theaters across the US on January 12 ahead of Paramount Pictures’ new musical Mean Girls remake.

“This will be our first true crime parody documentary to hit a big theater screen,” Lam tells The Drum.

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The mockumentary will be the longest branded content short to ever appear on the silver screen, according to National CineMedia, the country’s biggest cinema advertising platform.

“What makes this extraordinary,” Lam says, “is that everyone – from our diehard Elf community to thrill-seekers and true crime aficionados – can relate to and find entertaining Easter eggs for themselves in Cosmetic Criminals.”

Elf has recently dialed up its marketing investments. Last year, the brand made its television debut with a high-budget Super Bowl LVII spot brought to life by White Lotus director Mike White.

The brand has also launched a handful of branded collaborations in recent years, working with Chipotle and Dunkin’ Donuts on fast food-inspired palettes and putting out a denim-hued product line with American Eagle last March.

To make the most of the new Cosmetic Criminals film, Elf has dropped an accompanying merch collection called Cosmetic Security. Targeting fans who want to hide their beloved Elf products from beauty bandits, the product line includes a faux planter, a hollowed-out book (penned by author ‘Heidi N Herre’) and a teddy bear. Each product has secret internal compartments for storing cosmetics.

Elf is promoting Cosmetic Criminals across its social channels. The new film is also streaming on YouTube.

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