JOURNALIST Q & A: Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson writes Slate's Ad Report Card column, in which he humorously depicts advertisements down to their minute details and then grades them. Thus far, he has only written about TV ads, but Stevenson says he would branch out to other media if a worthy candidate emerges.

Seth Stevenson writes Slate's Ad Report Card column, in which he humorously depicts advertisements down to their minute details and then grades them. Thus far, he has only written about TV ads, but Stevenson says he would branch out to other media if a worthy candidate emerges.

PRWeek: Do you receive complaints from corporations and/or ad agencies whose ads you give low grades? Seth Stevenson: I've never gotten any outright complaints from a company or agency. I've had a few that loved my review, and then there was one who said she thought my review was "interesting." In retrospect, I guess that was perhaps a complaint in disguise, but she was very polite about it! PRWeek: At the end of last year, you wrote your column on an ad for Levitra, an erectile dysfunction drug. You humorously criticized the ad for its suggestive quality, but generally speaking, what are your thoughts on what some consider to be inundating direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies? Stevenson: I think the marketing of pharmaceuticals has become a fascinating and, in my opinion, unsettling societal issue - one which is probably beyond the scope of this interview. I will say, however, that I sense a real effort to move erectile dysfunction and anti-depressant drugs into the same category as deodorant (i.e., that of products everyone uses for fear of seeming anything less than perfect). PRWeek: Is there a particular industry that you have found stands out for having good ads? What about an industry that is especially lacking? Stevenson: The car industry seems to make both the best and the worst ads. On the one hand you've got Volkswagen, which consistently puts out terrific spots. There are also some other isolated successes, such as Saturn and Hummer, which have put out memorable ads recently. On the other hand are those countless, indistinguishable ads where a car drives over dunes and down a barren Arizona highway. Ugh. PRWeek: Do you receive a lot of pitches from companies that want you to review their advertisements or do you find that PR people tend to shy away because they consider your column a "risky" placement? Stevenson: I haven't been doing the column long, so the pitches haven't started rolling in yet, but I've had no problems at all with the PR people I've dealt with. I don't think there's much risk involved. I mean, we're putting their ad up on our site and discussing them in detail - isn't the whole point to get your ads seen and discussed? PRWeek: In your opinion, what is the best advertisement on television right now? Stevenson: Hands down, the Quiznos ads with the bizarre, singing/screeching monkey creatures. If you've seen them, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Those are by far the most memorable, vibrant ads on TV right now. ----- Name: Seth Stevenson Publication: Slate Title: Contributing writer Preferred contact information: via website Website: www.slate.com

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