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Puffery has a common, a commercial and a legal definition.[1]



Common being how puffery is defined by the merrian-webster dictionary as "exaggerated commendation especially for promotional purposes."[2] You can find the link that also includes the pronunciation here.

An article titled "The Best Puffery Article Ever" by fully outlines the commercial and legal aspects of puffery in the following:



The Commercial definition:

A definition of puffery in a marketing text is: Puffery: advertising copy that indulges in subjective exaggeration in its descriptions of a product or service, such as “an outstanding piece of luggage.” Puffery is always a matter of opinion on the part of the advertiser and often will use words such as “the best” or “the greatest” in describing the good qualities of a product or service. Sometimes puffery is extended into an exaggeration that is obviously untrue and becomes an outright parody, such as, “This perfume will bring out the beast in every man!”

JANE IMBLER &BETSY-ANN TOFFLER, DICTIONARY OF MARKETING TERMS 458 (2000).



Legally, the most significant characteristic of “puffery” is that it is a defense to a charge of misleading purchasers of goods, investments, or services, or to a charge that a promisor has made a legally cognizable promise.

That defense, whether or not actually asserted by a commercial speaker, highlights the general rule that speech

that misleads consumers is presumptively unlawful. Defendants in turn argue: “This speech, which would otherwise be unlawful because it is alleged to have misled consumption, could not have done so. It is puffery and should be immune from liability.”


Applications of the puffery defense share two other telling characteristics. First, speech found to be puffery almost always seeks to encourage consumption, making optimistic claims about goods unsupported by observed reality

Second, the puffery defense is related to a particular model of consumption, in which purchase decisions are reasonably made based on facts revealed by sellers. Thus, across the law, judges and regulators look for false facts uttered by sellers as the touchstone of their analysis.[3]

This article basically just analyzes puffery as how it was successfully used as a defense in 4 out of the many different areas of law that puffery has been used in.



A summary of his findings are as follows:

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In our textbook puffery is explained from a mixture of the 3 definitions.

It explains that “advertising can include what is called as puffery in advertisements and messages. Puffery exists when a firm makes an exaggerated statement about its goods or services. They key difference, in terms of the FCC and the courts, between puffery and a claim is that puffery is not considered to be a factual statement. In contrast a claim is considered to be a factual statement that can be proven to be false. Firms are entitles to make puffery statements without proving them; claims must be substantiated or proven in some matter.

Terms normally associated with puffery include words such as best, greatest, and finest. Therefore it is acceptable to state “our brand is the best” or “our signature dishes use only the finest ingredients.” Courts and the regulatory agencies view these statements as puffery and believe that consumers expect firms to use them routinely in their advertisements.[4]

As long as it is not a statement of fact that can be proven true or false then you are good to go.

An example that the book uses is that “Although the word best is normally accepted as puffery, the word better is somewhat vague and implies a comparison, which has been recently tested by the FCC, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, and the courts. Papa John’s use of the phrase “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” was found to be puffery, as was the phrase “only the best tomatoes grow up to be Hunt’s.”

In another situation, however, Progresso used the statement “Discover the better taste of Progresso” in company advertisements. The slogan was challenged by Campbell’s Soup Company, which argued that Progresso’s “better taste” phrase was not puffery. Campbell’s representatives argued that it is possible to determine if one food does taste better than other brands through the use of taste tests. The courts agreed and forced Progresso to either modify the phrase or prove that Progresso soups do taste better.







The key to pufferys legal acceptability is that its roots lie in yesterdays sellerism, not in today’s consumerism. I use the term sellerism to indicate the law’s former tendency to favour the seller considerably more than the buyer in the rules governing sales transactions. Consumerism, then, indicates the law’s tendency to favour the buyer relatively more in those rules today than it did under sellerism.[5]


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Many Advertisements rely on what is known as puffery, making a claim that sounds good but cannot really be evaluated. For example, if an automobile manufacturer tells you that its new car is the hottest car in America,” how would you evaluate that claim? If a product is advertised as “America’s favourite,” what does that really mean? Notice that many advertisements use comparative adjectives (usually ending in –er, such as better, faster, stronger) or superlative words (usually words ending in –est, such as best, smartest , cleanest). But such words only mean something when you know how to make the comparison.[6]


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While these examples of puffery are stock-in-trade for the advertising business, as Buyers you don’t take them seriously. No one else does either. As sellers, we want to be taken seriously by everyone we meet. We have tons of money involved, oft times survival itself. The fastest way to break trust with your Buyer is to waggle your verbal finger high in the air and claim that you or your company is “Number One.”[7]


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References

1. Rodney A. Smolla (2002) “The Puffery of Lawyers” –HeinOnline U. Rich. L. Rev., 2002 36: 1. http://scholar.google.ca/scholar_host?q=info:xigBm_WlFPYJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=2000&output=viewport&shm=1


2. Webster Dictionary (2010) “Puffery” Accessed at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puffery


3. David A. Hoffman (2006) “The Best Puffery Article Ever,” Iowa Law Review, http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=hoffman


4. Kenneth E. Clow and Donald Baack, (2010) "Intergrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications", Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall,Upper Saddle River


5. Ivan L. Preston (1996) “The great American blow-up: puffery in advertising and selling” (Book) University of Wisconsin Press, http://books.google.ca/books?id=ObkVPONnpDcC&lpg=PP1&ots=c229IdTSsI&dq=puffery&lr=&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false


6. Peyton Paxson Walch (2002) “Media Literacy: Thinking Critically about Advertising” (Book), http://books.google.ca/books?id=0i04DuOjNfgC&lpg=PA6&dq=puffery&lr=&pg=PA6#v=onepage&q=puffery&f=false


7. Jerry VassSoft Selling in a Hard World: Plain Talk on the Art of Persuasion” (Book) Running Press, 199, http://books.google.ca/books?id=KvIxztjUAgMC&lpg=PA27&dq=puffery&lr=&pg=PA27#v=onepage&q=puffery&f=false


8. YouTube “Papa John’s Puffery - Domino's Pizza”(2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn5n4NFpxe8


9. YouTube “Public Puffery” (2009), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSdBLN-aHqI