In the context of advertising, federal regulators define puffery as opinions or exaggerations by the seller about the quality or other aspects of a product. Since such statements are subjective, they are usually allowed in advertising, although the Federal Trade Commission monitors complaints to ensure that puffery is not moving into the realm of deception in advertising.

Puffery Defined

According to attorney Ken LaMance, writing in Legal Match, statements or terms of puffery are most often subjective opinions, rather than factual representations intended to be taken literally. Puffery uses broad, non-specific claims that can't be conclusively proven false. For instance, a restaurant that advertises itself as having "the best chicken in the West" or "the best burgers in the world" is deploying puffery.

Puffery vs. Deception

Puffery can be construed as false advertising -- and bring legal challenges -- in cases where more specific or comparative claims are made. Consumer Fraud Online notes the example of a Papa John's Pizza ad campaign that used the slogan "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza," in conjunction with separate advertisements comparing the company's ingredients to those of Pizza Hut. A false advertising lawsuit resulted in a federal court prohibiting Papa John's use of the slogan, on the grounds that it could not prove its ingredients were "fresher" or "tastier" than those of competitors, although that judgment was overturned on appeal.

Determining False Claims

To be considered false advertising, experts note that a claim in an advertisement must be not only misleading, but likely to influence purchase decisions. Aaron Kelly Law firm notes, for instance, that if a financial services firm claims to maintain $2 million in reserve funds, that would be examined closely by regulators, since that kind of claim would influence a customer's decision on whether to use that firm's services. False advertising, unlike puffery, is also subject to reporting laws governing industries such as financial services.

Impacts of Puffery

Puffery affects consumers based on their level of knowledge about a product or service. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that ambiguous statements affects consumers based on their level of knowledge about a product, with those who have a higher perceived level viewing puffery as useless filler. In a legal sense, experts note that those who consider themselves deceived by puffery must do more than prove they were disappointed by the ad; they must establish specific instances of facts being misrepresented.