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Puffery Claims Explored

Do's and don'ts of puffery

Puffery Claims Explored

Puffery is one of my favorite advertising compliance discussions. Last week, I attended the ACI Substantiation Conference in NYC, where puffery was widely discussed. A recent National Advertising Division (NAD) case determined that a beef jerky company’s “the best” and “Clearly the best” statements were puffery. OK, I know I write about supplements, but we can learn from the beef jerky NAD case. Also, I go into more detail about what constitutes puffery below.

According to NAD, puffery is “an exaggerated, blustering, or boastful statement or general claim that could only be understood to be an expression of opinion, not a statement of fact.”

From NAD case.

  • “Old Trapper’s “Clearly the Best Beef Jerky” slogan, when used on its product packaging and website, conveys a message of corporate pride, and the use of “best” is not comparative as no specific competitor or ingredient is identified. In these contexts, the challenged claims are unquantifiable and, therefore, puffery.”

  • “The claim “The Best Ingredients Create the Best Beef Jerky” which appears prominently on the Old Trapper website landing page, did not convey a specific comparative superiority message.”

  • “Old Trapper’s 15-second YouTube video that depicted a single bag of Old Trapper jerky while “Old Trapper is Clearly the Best Beef Jerky. Clearly More. Clearly Nothing to Hide. Clearly Fresh. Clearly the Best”, did not convey a comparative superiority      message because the video only featured Old Trapper, did not tout attributes other than a single reference to “clearly fresh,” and did not refer to or depict any competitors or competitors’ products.”

NAD did however find that the company’s “We use only the highest quality ingredients” is an objective claim that requires support. If they had stayed with the “Only the best ingredients make the best products” claim, this would have likely been considered puffery.

NAD looks at whether a claim is provable, measurable, or is an opinion. Here are three parameters of puffery (with examples). Thanks for this, NAD!

1) Puffery as exaggeration: We all remember the movie Elf, where Will Ferrell declares the crummy coffee was, in fact, the “World’s best of coffee.” This statement is so exaggerated that no reasonable consumer would believe this to be accurate. If a company advertised “Best cup of coffee in Boulder,” then perhaps it would no longer be puffery. Adding quantifiable comments such as “#1 coffee choice in Boulder” would require substantiation.

2) Puffery as an opinion: “The best almonds make the best almond milk.” was considered to be proof of corporate pride in its product and was not a comparative claim.  This would require substantiation if it could be quantified, such as “We only use the best California almonds.”

3) Puffery from depictions and imagery: This example shows how context matters and that even if a claim is puffery, the corresponding imagery can make it a claim requiring substantiation.

     a. A statement that may have been puffery in isolation but was presented in the context of other claims that made it NOT puffery. Many of us may remember the “Hefty, hefty, hefty. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.” advertisements. NAD found that in a radio advertisement, this line was puffery, but when used in a television commercial featuring John Cena, who is very large, and Rob Schneider (much smaller), the visual commercial made Glad Bags seem wimpy.

NAD has a podcast about puffery. Learn more here.

Read the beef jerky NAD case here

Disclaimer: The educational information provided here is for informational purposes only. Contact an attorney for specific legal advice. Rule #1 in compliance is to ensure marketing is truthful and not misleading.

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