Viewpoint – Visual puffery in advertising

Marc Fetscherin
The Crummer Graduate School of Business (Rollins College)

Mark Toncar
Marketing at Youngstown State University

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US defines 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' (FTC 2004). The concept and use of verbal puffery in advertising research has been discussed extensively in the past few decades (Preston 1967; Preston & Scharbach 1971; Richards 1990). Puffed claims, while obviously untrue, are typically not considered deceptive in the US. We know of no study that has investigated the use of visuals – pictures and symbols – as vehicles of puffery. This issue is especially important in light of the decision of the 2nd US District Court of Appeals in Manhattan, which ruled that puffery can include visual depictions (Neumeister 2007).