The hits, jokes and messages of the Super Bowl commercials

It's rare that you want to watch the commercials. Normally you want to change channels, go get a snack or fast forward through them — except during the Super Bowl. This was the first year Canadians could watch the commercials as they were aired.

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John Malkovich's Super Bowl commercial for Squarespace, in which he struggles to get his domain name, was one of the more memorable ads during this year's game. (Squarespace/YouTube)

It's rare that you want to watch the commercials. Normally you want to change channels, go get a snack or fast forward through them — except during the Super Bowl.

For Americans, commercials have long been part of the attraction. And this year — finally — Canadians got to take part in the fun, thanks to a CRTC decision.

This year's advertisers reportedly paid roughly $5 million US for 30 seconds of airtime. The aim, as always, was to create the most memorable ad by stuffing commercials with celebrities, slapstick humour, cute animals or children.

This year's crop of ads filled all the categories, but several nodded to the political climate since Donald Trump became president.

The messages

Shortly before kickoff, Coca-Cola replayed an ad originally from 2014, which featured America the Beautiful sung in eight different languages. 

The most obviously political ad was from 84 Lumber, which had an earlier version rejected for being too controversial. The commercial featured the journey of a woman and her daughter travelling through Mexico. The ad directed viewers online to see the conclusion.

At the end of the six-minute piece, the characters arrived at a towering wall and appeared defeated until they discovered a gate in the wall. The ad ended with the words, "The will to succeed is always welcome here."

The commercial was clearly in opposition to Trump's plan to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trump's famous hair was also the target of an ad for, what else, hair products. The 10 Haircare commercial reminded viewers that no matter what else happens, "we're in for four years of awful hair."

Several ads were less direct about their political message, but still took an inspirational tone.

Honda's Super Bowl spot used talking yearbook photos of celebrities including Tina Fey, Robert Redford and Viola Davis to talk about following your dreams. While it didn't have much to do with cars, the commercial gave viewers a glimpse of what celebs looked like in high school.

Audi's ad may not have been directly targeting U.S. politics, but its message was definitely clear. The commercial featured a young girl competing in a soapbox car race while her father struggled to explain gender inequality. 

The gags

The Avocados from Mexico ad featured a story about a secret society that apparently can't keep secrets — including health benefits of avocados.  

Another ad featured John Malkovich trying to secure his domain name from someone else named John Malkovich. In typical Malkovich style, the actor played it straight. The commercial for Squarespace had two equally laugh-worthy parts.

With the help of a Magic Eraser, Mr. Clean turned an average Joe into more of a Magic Mike. 

The stars

As usual, many commercials brought out some star power. They drove cars and endorsed airlines and wireless providers. A unique use of star power came from a beverage company that isn't available in Canada.

The ad for Bai, pronounced 'bye', starts off with Christopher Walken reciting a few lines that don't entirely make sense. As the camera pans out, Walken is seen sitting beside Justin Timberlake, and the lines are the lyrics to the 'N Sync song Bye, Bye, Bye

Aside from the commercials, there were plenty of movie trailers and previews for video games. Those trailers featured action and explosions — including an unnecessary return of Pirates of the Caribbean — and the Halloween premiere date for season 2 of the Netflix sensation Stranger Things.


Nicole Riva is a multi-platform writer and social media presenter for CBC News based in Toronto.