Puffery in Advertising

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Puffery: A controversial Type of Ad Claim

Brady Bowers

University of Oklahoma

Puffery is the legal term for ad claims that state opinions rather than facts and that are excused from legal control even when the advertiser disbelieves them. Advertisers goals and objectives consist of trying to persuade people into buying a product or service through various typed of methods. Companies may delivers certain messages about its products, compare them to similar items, list facts about them, or state vague claims about them, which cannot be proved or disproved. Making these vague claims is known as “puffery,” where the advertiser “puffs up” the product to seem more than it is. This can seem misleading or deceiving to consumers because puffery is not illegal and is a common and effective method used in advertising. I think there is nothing wrong about puffery because it is a necessary technique to enhance advertising, in which I encourage further use of it.

Some claims that make up puffery may be false, but they are not lies because they cannot be disproved or proved. Fore example, a company may claim that their coffee is the best tasting coffee in the world but no one can prove that it is the best but at the same time can’t prove that it is not the best. However, if the advertiser states that the coffee contains ingredients that help to prevent cancer, then that is something that could be proved or disproved by research or science. Trying to persuade consumers that coffee helps prevent cancer would be considered a false claim, which is illegal unlike exaggerated opinions of puffery that are legal.

Puffery can be characterized by exaggeration and hyperbole. “The best tasting coffee in the world” is beyond belief to where a reasonable person would not take the claim seriously or to be true. Advertisers use this exaggeration and hyperbole to allure people’s attention and make their messages more memorable to where they can retain and recall them. Seeing as how puffery claims are obviously exaggerated, and exaggeration is key in getting people’s attention, puffery is an accepted advertising technique.

Puffery claims are subjective and are a matter of opinion. For example, a car repair shop may say it offers the “best” service, but “best” is a matter of opinion, which stands in the category of puffery. But if the car repair shop claims that is has won more awards than any other shop in the city, then this is something that can be measured or proved, which is an objective claim and not puffery. Puffery often uses superlatives such as “best”, “fastest,” “tastiest,” “and “freshest.”

Puffery does not intend to deceive consumers. Advertising that intentionally misleads or makes false claims is illegal, in contrast to puffery being legal. Comparing a product with a competitor’s product without scientific studies to validate the claims stated could lead to charges of deception.

Connections between advertising and promotional sales testimonials commonly use puffery. Puffery is often employed by business to “puff up” the image of their product. Since the statements or terms of puffery are subjective and not objective, it is assumed that most consumers would recognize puffery as an opinion that cannot be verified. Most reasonable persons would not take puffery literally or to heart, therefore I don’t believe that it is a harmful issue. We need these “puffs” in order to spruce up our environment in order to not be exposed to the same dull non-engaging advertisements. The difference between puffery and factual representations is the degree of specificity of the claim. Puffery contains broad, general claims, such as “The Best Steak in the South.”

Puffery is not prohibited by the law and is allowed to a certain degree. Generally, a business or seller cannot be held liable for misrepresentation if they issue a statement that amounts to puffery or “puffing.” Also, statements of puffery cannot be considered as creating an...
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