23 rd March `09 What is puffery ? Puffery is a term used in the advertising industry to describe the hype and exaggeration that may be present in advertising meant to grab consumers' attention. Puffery refers to an advertising claim that is not false - because the product does possess that quality to a certain extent - but it is an exaggerated claim. It is a subjective claim that cannot be proved right or wrong.
23 rd March `09 What is puffery ? Puffery refers to the exaggerated claim of a product's superiority or the use of subjective or vague statements that may not be literally true. Puffery consists of promotional claims that no one out of diapers takes literally. Thus, puffery is generally not considered deceptive advertising.
23 rd March `09 More… Courts around the world have traditionally been generous towards advertisers. They’ve allowed puffing or ‘seller's talk’ as it is also known. Ivan Preston (expert on truth in advertising). ``Puffery is used because it works, legal because it doesn't.”– Ivan Preston (expert on truth in advertising).
23 rd March `09 What is Deceptive advertising ? There is a thin line between puffery and deceptive advertising. Deceptive advertising occurs when an advertisement is introduced into the perceptual process of the audience and the outcome of the perceptual process either differs from the reality of the situation or affects the buying behaviour of the consumer detrimentally.
23 rd March `09 What Is Deceptive advertising ? Deception is involved when due to advertising: a consumer perceives a claim (being explicitly or implicitly made by the advertiser) differently from what it actually is; then buys the product under the influence of a mistaken impression and then suffers a loss as a consequence. Thus, either the claim itself could be false or at least the impression being created is false.
23 rd March `09 Example of Deceptive ads In an advertisement for Palmolive shaving cream, the cream lather was shown to be effective enough to shave sand grains off sand paper implying that if the cream could shave sand paper, it could tackle the toughest beard. But what was not disclosed was the fact that the sand paper was soaked in water for 24 hours before shooting of the Ad. Would you immerse your face in water for 24 hours before shaving? Lets watch a video here
23 rd March `09 Examples of puffery Unlike what has been shown in the ad, bears don’t drink Coke.
23 rd March `09 Taking a closer look… MYTH: A claim can be substantiated if it has several studies supporting it. TRUTH: A claim is only substantiated if the studies were scientifically controlled and validated by experts in the field and the party conducting the study had no incentive to obtain particular results. A claim may be substantiated if there is an absence of relevant studies contradicting the results.
23 rd March `09 More… MYTH: If your product has some benefit, the advertisement will not be challenged. TRUTH: Even real product claims must be substantiated with scientific evidence. MYTH: Testimonials are substantiation. TRUTH: They are not - even if the testimonials are backed up with affidavits from individuals stating that the product performed as promised. Anecdotal evidence is not considered.
23 rd March `09 More… MYTH: If endorsers actually use and like the product, it is safe to use their endorsements. TRUTH: Even if the endorser is making truthful statements the claim must consider whether the endorser's experiences are typical. If the results are not substantiated the claim needs to disclose what results may be generally expected and that there is no typical.
23 rd March `09 More… MYTH: If a deceptive claim is followed with a disclosure, liability is removed. TRUTH: If a claim cannot be substantiated do not make it. The claim may have to be narrowed down to what can be substantiated. Disclosures that contradict a deceptive claim do not remove liabilities.
23 rd March `09 Truth telling The term refers to “not lying” and “not misleading” anyone. One can mislead even without lying, by just withholding relevant information. An example of that would be ads of OTC medicines that never talk of its side effects – the ad for Crocin, a popular analgesic, doesn't talk of the liver damage that paracetamol can cause when used regularly. It only talks about the relief from pain/fever etc.
23 rd March `09 More… The question of truth telling also arises when they make models wear doctors’ coats and vouch for the quality of a product. This kind of portrayal amounts to lying. So it must be wrong? The counter argument in favor of puffery would appeal to the “reasonability” of the human mind, making this an endless discussion.
23 rd March `09 regulations In the U.S – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act lays down guidelines for responsible advertising. There are regulations against deception, under which deceptive ads maybe sued. In U.K – the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulation and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulation were framed
23 rd March `09 More… in consonance with a directive issued by the European union. In India – there was no codified law regulating ads until recently, but Rule 7(4) of the Cable television network rules, 1994, stated that the goods and services advertised shall not suffer from any defect as mentioned in the consumer protection act 1986
23 rd March `09 More 36(A) – of the monopolies and restrictive trade practices act, 1969, gives an exhaustive definition of the term unfair trade practice which includes false representation of products. More recently, a body called ASCI – Advertising Standards Council of India has been set up to regulate ad content and deal with cases of puffery and deception.