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Difference Between False Advertising & Puffery
by Erika Waters,1 Demand Media
The difference between puffery and false and false advertising is the difference
between legal promotion and illegal marketing claims. Puffery is a legal way of
promoting a product or service through hyperbole or oversized statements that
cannot be objectively verified. On the other hand, false advertising occurs when
factually false statements are used to promote a product. For example, stating that a
car gets 35 miles per gallon when it actually only gets 30 mpg is false advertising.
Objective vs. Subjective
The biggest distinction between puffery and false advertising is that puffery is
subjective while false advertising consists of objective statements. Objective
statements are statements that can be verified. Stating that nine out of 10 dentists
prefer a certain toothpaste is an objective statement because it can be verified. On the
other hand, stating that a toothpaste is the "world's favorite" is a subjective statement
because it is so outrageous that no one would believe it to be factually accurate. As
such, this subjective statement is mere puffery.
Examples of Puffery
There are many examples of puffery. It is used in almost every type of advertisement.
In 2000, Pizza Hut brought a lawsuit against Papa John's challenging whether Papa
John's advertisements were puffery or false advertising. The Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals considered Papa John's ad that stated "Better ingredients. Better Pizza." The
court's judgment found that that statement standing alone was not a verifiable fact
that would be relied upon by consumers and, therefore, was mere puffery.
Examples of False Advertising
False advertising is very serious and legal action may be brought against the
offending company. False advertising consists of factual statements that are deceptive
and are factually incorrect. For example, stating that a knife is so sharp it can cut
through stone would be false advertising if it can be shown that the knife is not
actually that sharp. This statement would be considered false advertising because it is
deceptive, factually inaccurate, and a consumer would reasonably rely upon it in
making a purchasing decision.
Regulatory Agencies
If a product or service is being promoted through false advertising, there are several
regulatory agencies that can respond to such claims. The Better Business Bureau can
handle complaints relating to false advertising by companies and businesses. The
Federal Trade Commission handles false advertising claims on the federal level. The
FTC will not respond to individual claims, but it may consider claims as part of a
larger pattern of false advertising.
Erika Waters is a business lawyer licensed to practice in California. She has
experience working with nonprofits including Teach for America, as well as
entrepreneurs and startups. Waters has contributed to several blogs, including the
Business & Media Institute and other online publications and has worked as an editor
for an academic publication.
Soft News and Feature Stories
“The Profile” is about an individual.
“The News Feature” focuses on a topic of interest in the news. It often covers
the same subjects as deadline hard-news stories, but does so in greater depth
and detail.
“The Spot Feature” focuses on a smaller aspect of a deadline hard-news event.
They are often used as “sidebars” to the “mainbar.” For example, if a
sandstorm hit Kuwait, the mainbar would cover the five W’s and the how of
the story. “The Spot Feature” would describe an emergency shelter or perhaps
look at the history of severe weather in Kuwait or even report on the weather
conditions that lead to the sandstorm.
“The Trend Story” examines popular things or ideas. Fashion, websites, tech
gadgets, music film, etc. It takes the pulse of the culture at the moment.
“The Live-In” is an in-depth, often magazine-length article that paints a
picture of a particular place and the people who work or live there. These
aren’t travel articles. They aren’t looking to sell a trip. Instead they can be
done on homeless shelters, emergency rooms, cancer hospices, schools, police
precincts, battlefield encampments. The purpose is typically to give the reader
insight into a place they probably wouldn’t normally visit.
Puffery – noun – exaggerated commendation especially for promotional purposes;
The newspaper’s local stories are often thinly disguised puffery for area businesses.
Puff Piece – noun informal – a newspaper article or item on a television show using
exaggerated praise to advertise or promote a celebrity, book, of event.
A Champion and A Racket
Roger Federer's sweet forehand and court smarts have made him one
of the top-ranked tennis players in the world.
Roger Federer - The Beginning
Born on August 8, 1981 in Basel, Switzerland, Roger Federer began
playing tennis when he was eight years old. By the time he was ten,
people were already talking about Roger's sweet touch with the
racket and his competitive attitude. Roger would sometimes beat
other kids his age so badly they would start crying and Roger would
often cry and smash rackets himself if he ever lost a match. Roger left
home when he was 13 to train at a top-rated tennis academy in
Switzerland and was the number one ranked junior player in the
world by the time he was 16.
Roger Federer - The Swiss Master
In 1998, Roger Federer began playing on the professional tennis
circuit. He won his first ATP tournament in Milan in 2001 and
quickly worked his way up the men's world tennis rankings. In 2003,
he won six tournments including his first Grand Slam tournament by
defeating Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon. By 2004, Federer was
the number one ranked tennis player on the planet and won three of
the four Grand Slam tournaments that year including Wimbledon,
the US Open and the Australian Open. Federer has since gone onto
win twelve more Grand Slam titles, bringing his grand total up to 13.
Roger has won the US Open five times and the Aussie Open, three
times. The only major tournament that he has not won is the French
Open in Paris.
Roger Federer - The Best Ever?
Roger Federer's professional tennis career is still quite young, but
some are predicting he could beat Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand
Slam tennis titles in 2009. Federer is an extremely intelligent tennis
player who's known for his dominating forehand and rarely making
mistakes on the court. He has already won 13 Grand Slam titles and
his smart, consistent play means he'll be a favorite to win several
more before his career is over.