See Tina Fey, Missy Elliott and Stan Lee before they were famous in Honda's Super Bowl spot

Celebrities' younger selves talk from grade-school yearbooks to promote the CR-V.

Honda will debut its revamped CR-V sports utility vehicle the same way it revealed the original two decades ago—through a Super Bowl commercial. What also happened in 1997? Tina Fey wasn’t anywhere near "Saturday Night Live." She was doing improv at Chicago’s Second City. And late night host Jimmy Kimmel served as Ben Stein’s comedic counterpart on his eponymous game show "Win Ben Stein's Money." But they both followed their dreams and became successful.

The message? The CR-V has come a long way in 20 years, too.

"It was a natural fit to talk about the dreams that you chase, and here’s the culmination of our dreams, which is this redesigned CR-V, which ironically was debuted 20 years ago on the Super Bowl," said Susie Rossick, assistant VP of Honda Auto Marketing. "So it’s like, in 20 years, here’s what we’ve done." The ad was created by Honda’s AOR, independent Los Angeles agency RPA.

Titled "Yearbooks," the ad marks the third time Honda has marketed the CR-V in the Big Game (last year, it showcased its Ridgeline pickup truck.) The minute-long film features a slew of celebrities from sports, music, comic books and Hollywood—like Stan Lee, Missy Elliott and Magic Johnson—before they were famous, in their grade school yearbooks. But one thing that’s missing from the bulk of the ad is the Honda CR-V itself. Rossick said this was a conscious choice. "The great thing about the Super Bowl is you know people are going to see your ad from start to finish," she said.

Plus, there’s more to Honda’s Super Bowl strategy than Sunday’s game. The spot’s blast from the past theme yields itself to the ideal social media integration, Rossick said, in the form of #ThrowbackThursday. On Tuesday, Honda teased the ad by posting a 15-second clip on its Twitter page, which has been watched nearly 1.9 million times, and today, Lee, Johnson and Viola Davis will promote their own #TBT moments to social media. In turn, the brand will engage its followers by asking them to post their yearbook photos, using the #PowerOfDreams hashtag. 

"We never thought we’d get that kind of engagement from that teaser, and his name wasn’t even on there. It didn’t even say ‘Steve Carrell!’" Rossick said, adding that the Super Bowl "gives you this broad reach to tell this story for over a week, and I don’t know any other platform that allows you to do that."

Post-game, Honda will continue the campaign with homepage takeovers of Amazon, Yahoo and ESPN as well as TV, digital banners, OOH, radio, print and social media buys. The subsequent advertising, Rossick said, will focus on the CR-V’s new features. But with 110 million people watching the Super Bowl, "we wanted a commercial that engages the public."

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free