AskDefine | Define puffery

User Contributed Dictionary




Derived terms

puff piece

Extensive Definition

Puffery as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, such that no reasonable person would take literally. Puffery is especially featured in testimonials.


For instance, a diner advertisement promoting the “world’s best cup of coffee” would classify as puffery. That claim would be almost impossible to substantiate, and no reasonable consumer would take such exaggeration at face value. Puffery often uses the superlative form of a word, like “best” or “greatest”.
Puffery might also exaggerate the advertised effects of a product. An example is the following Burma-Shave jingle:We've made / Grandpa / Look so trim / The local / Draft board's after him / Burma-Shave

Where substantiation is needed

However, a company making a superlative claim such as “cheapest” or “safest” usually has to substantiate such competitive claims. Merchants must exercise extreme caution when making statements about the quality, condition, or facts about their products or services. A slight variation in wording may result in an express warranty.

Federal Trade Commission definition

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined puffery as a “term frequently used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined.”
The FTC stated in 1984 that puffery does not warrant enforcement action by the Commission. In its FTC Policy Statement on Deception, the Commission stated: "The Commission generally will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously."
The advertising world sometimes refers to puffery with the idiom gilding the lily.

Puff piece

Puff piece is an idiom for a journalistic form of puffery; an article or story of exaggerating praise that often ignores or downplays opposing viewpoints or evidence to the contrary.


  1. Boudreaux, Donald J. (1995). "Puffery" in Advertising. Free Market, September 1995 Volume 13, Number 9.
  2. Preston, Ivan L. (1996). The Great American Blow-Up: Puffery in Advertising and Selling. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-15254-5
  3. Foulke, Judith E. (1995) Cosmetic Ingredients: Understanding the Puffery. FDA Consumer, Publication No. (FDA) 95-5013.
  4. Hoffman, David A. (2006). The Best Puffery Article Ever. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 91, 2006
  5. DeFrancis, Victor F. (2004). . FTC Consumer Protection Update, Fall 2004.
  6. Federal Trade Commission Policy Statement on Deception, 103 F.T.C. 174 (1984), appended to Cliffdale Assoc. Inc., 103 F.T.C. 110 (1984).
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1