A new get-tough policy by Britain’s courts is threatening to put an
end to so-called advertising ’puffery’.
Trading standards officers and disaffected consumers are expected to
take advantage of last month’s Court of Appeal ruling which legal
experts say makes it increasingly difficult for advertisers to praise
their own products.
They believe the judgment means advertisers and agencies will have to
choose their words more carefully or face the prospect of civil actions
or prosecutions under the Trade Descriptions Act.
Evidence of a legal clampdown came in a ruling last month over a
magazine ad for a replica vintage car which claimed it was ’absolutely
mint. All the right bits and does it go.’
The buyer of the car took legal action after discovering that it had not
been correctly modified.
The advertiser’s claim that the description was a ’puff’, or statement
of opinion, was dismissed by the court which said the words were a
statement of fact.
Philip Circus, the Newspaper Society’s consultant on advertising law,
said the ruling signalled the courts’ growing intolerance of ’puffs’:
’It means agencies will have to be very careful about laudatory comments
in ads,’ he said.
’The line between a ’puff’ and a statement of fact in car ads is
becoming very narrow because agencies have exhausted all the things they
can say about the products.’