If Mad Men has taught me anything, it is that in their chosen vocation, the dream merchants do few things unintentionally as they cultivate the desires of citizen-consumers.
It is almost assured that there will be much overreaction and hand-wringing over the racially clumsy and stereotyped laden Pepsi Max Superbowl ad. But, said response does not mean that the spot itself is not worthy of some critical engagement.
There really isn't too much to offer in terms of meta-analysis for this spot. Perhaps, this is why the advertisement just seems so lazy. The commercial deploys the "Sassy Mammy"/Sapphire stereotype: the over-bearing, neck-snapping black woman (and lest we not forget that stereotypes persist because they are rooted in some reality that folks choose to reproduce or not...see Tyler Perry and others) which persists even into the 21st century. As the obligatory target for said "sista's" overbearing harpiness, Pepsi Max features an emasculated black man and his obligatory object of lust--the always beguiling and sexy white woman. In turn, Black man's kryptonite is left unconscious by Sapphire..and his big, black, wide, can. She and her man then beat a hasty retreat.
If we don't retreat in the face of what seems to be such a grossly flat text, the semiotics of the Pepsi Max commercial can become (at least potentially) quite interesting. Could there in fact be more going on in the implications of the advertisement (and what it is signaling to in the collective political subconscious) than in the spot itself? Is a focus on reception more illuminating than an exclusive examination of the text's visuals and narrative?
For example, check out some of the running comments on the advertisement here. White privilege and the normality of whiteness--as always--are on fully display. Because you know, "why can't it just be about a man and his overbearing wife?" and "why do you always have to bring race into this stuff?"