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Super Bowl ads were meant to be engaging, not controversial, ad executive says

Several Super Bowl ads this year stirred political controversy, but most were simply meant to engage a particular set of their target consumers, ad executive Harris Diamond told CNBC on Monday.

"I don't think the goal is ever to be controversial. The goal is to be engaging," the CEO and chairman of McCann Worldgroup told "Squawk Box."

Airbnb and 84 Lumber, which were handled by different agencies, sparked chatter online after airing commercials commenting on inclusivity and immigration.

Airbnb's flicked through shots of people of various races and ethnicities touting the beauty of a world in which "#weaccept," while 84 Lumber's followed a mother and daughter across Mexico, traveling by foot in search of a better life.

"I think when you take a look at the Airbnb ad, in any other year what you would've said [was] it was celebrating ... multiculturalism, which the Super Bowl has always celebrated. [The] concept of inclusion. [The] concept of, 'It's for all Americans,'" Diamond said.

He added that Airbnb's decision to air an ad about inclusivity did come as a pointed response to President Donald Trump's executive order a week before the game to temporarily ban refugees. But the company wasn't concerned about the potential for controversy, he said.

"I think Airbnb decided that the people most important to them were on the side of what they were talking about," Diamond said. "And that's the most important issue for people making ads. It has to basically be oriented towards your consumers."

Most of the decisionmakers involved in the advertising process were not concerned about the political landscape, he added.

"Clearly, with the ads, what we saw was an overlay where people thought where people thought they were all political. The reality is many of them were the normal type of ads," Diamond said.

This year, McCann client Coca-Cola re-aired its 2014 ad, which featured "America the Beautiful" being sung in different languages to represent diversity. It was created by Portland-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.

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