The Use of Puffery and Advertisement Case Study

March 8, 2022
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The Use of Puffery and Advertisement Case Study

The Use of Puffery and Advertisement Case Study

I’m studying for my Philosophy class and need an explanation.

In the advertising business, there is a line drawn between stretching the truth and outright deception. It is against federal law in the United States for an advertisement to mislead customers or make false statements about a product. However, there is no law against “puffery,” which means that marketers can exaggerate their claims about a product as long as no reasonable person would take it literally. For example, advertisements for Axe Body Spray frequently suggest that any man wearing the product will become miraculously bombarded by beautiful women. Even though Axe Body Spray has no such magnetizing effect, these advertisements are not considered misleading, since no one would take the suggestion literally. It’s just a bit of puffery.

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Some believe that the use of puffery in advertising wrongfully manipulates consumers. Imagine a motorcycle advertisement that appeals to a consumer’s sense of adventure, displaying a motorcyclist driving through various exotic locations. The purchase of the motorcycle is certainly no guarantee of adventure, and most consumers wouldn’t interpret the advertisement as providing such a guarantee. However, suppose that someone watching the advertisement now finds herself interested in purchasing a motorcycle, imagining the grand adventures she may take one day, even though she didn’t previously have any desire for one.
Questions:

a.) According to Kant’s principle of universalizability, is there anything morally wrong with using puffery in advertising? Why or why not?

b.) According to Kant’s principle of humanity, is there anything morally wrong with using puffery in advertising? Why or why not?

In your answer, you should explain the principles clearly before applying them to the case of puffery.

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