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The Molson commercial, which extols the value of multiculturalism, is more than a year old

YouTube

Molson Coors Brewing Co. joined a host of advertisers getting attention for political messages over Super Bowl weekend – but unlike other brands including Budweiser, 84 Lumber and Coca-Cola, Molson didn't make a Super Bowl ad.

Its commercial, which extols the value of multiculturalism, is more than a year old. But last week, as debate raged and legal protests emerged over U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration and refugee ban, people began resurrecting the Molson Canadian ad from June, 2015, and sharing it on social media. "A commercial that is scary relevant now," one caption accompanying the video on Facebook read. "I wish more people understood this over here in the States," a commenter wrote.

The commercial opens with the question, "What makes someone Canadian?" It shows a red beer fridge left in a public square that could only be opened when its voice-recognition software registered people saying "I am Canadian" in six different languages. The campaign launched just before Canada Day and was designed to celebrate the country's diversity. It did well, adding to Molson's market share that July.

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But last week, it started to garner a lot more attention, largely thanks to two Facebook posts that attracted millions of views each, and subsequent sharing on YouTube and Twitter as well. Molson and its agency, Rethink, began noticing the unusual numbers over the weekend: Since last week, the video has had more than 10 million views online. In comparison, Molson's original beer-fridge ad, featuring one that could be opened by scanning Canadian passports, has had roughly three million views since it launched in 2013.

"We always try to tap into really deep consumer truths – in this example, the power of Canadian diversity – and when you do that, you create a relevance for your messaging. That's what we're seeing here," said Chris Blackburn, marketing director for Molson Coors Canada.

Molson has the advantage of having the conversation taken out of its hands: Without having to take a political position that could (rightly or not) be divisive, it can allow consumers to point to the ad's broader relevance in the current climate. One of its competitors has shied away from that same divisiveness: Last week, after launching its Super Bowl ad telling the immigration story of founder Adolphus Busch, Budweiser equivocated with a statement that the ad was "not intended to be in response to the current political landscape."

And 84 Lumber Co., which sells building supplies, showed an ad featuring a woman and her daughter travelling through Mexico. The full ad, featured online, showed the pair encountering a wall at the border – with a door built in that swings open. But afterward, the company's CEO told People magazine that the ad was not intended to be "pro-immigration," adding that "the message is in the eyes of the beholder."

Other brands entered the conversation more deliberately: Airbnb Inc. bought its Super Bowl airtime late last week to show an ad with a diverse group of faces and the message, "We believe no matter who you are, where you're from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. This world is more beautiful the more you accept." Coca-Cola Co. decided to resurrect its Super Bowl ad from three years ago, and to show it again in this year's big game: It featured America the Beautiful sung in different languages.

Molson usually spends a modest amount to continue to promote older ads on social media, Mr. Blackburn said, and the company has slightly increased its investment in the beer-fridge ad following the boost in attention over the weekend. Other ads occasionally see an audience boost online long after the fact: For example, the "I am Canadian" rant commercial from the nineties still garners attention online every Canada Day. But the volume of increased activity this week is unusual.

Asked if there were any concerns about the spot becoming part of political conversations, Mr. Blackburn said the marketing team is focused on communicating "what the brand stands for."

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"We're seeing a very relevant message here that's a celebration of Canadian values," he said. "So that's really our focus.

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