Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I'm not sure if I really saw the word puffery when I was doing some legal research today, as I was flipping through pages of the California Business and Professions code on False Advertising (17500, if you care.) I thought I saw the word as a heading for some annotated case law.

For some unknown reason the word has stuck with me throughout the day today, through meetings, other research and right on into the evening. I have no idea why. Thus the
blog entry. It was originally going to be a cute feature called "word of the day" (and I guess it is, in a way) but now it is simply (almost) this entire entry.

Puffery - I imagine false advertising to make a product or something seem way more than it is. Puffery has to be one of the better words, sounds ridiculous (in a sweet way), and describes ridiculousness. (Puffed cereal comes to mind.)

Let me find a definition:
Oh my, a quick search in google shows me that I have happened upon a marketing and legal 'term of art.'

From the Marketing Terms Dictionary

- 1. (advertising definition) An exaggerated advertising claim that would be generally recognized as such by potential customers. 2. (consumer behavior definition) An advertising term implying gross exaggeration but usually not considered deception because it is assumed not to be believable. Examples are the mile-high ice cream cone or the world's softest mattress. 3. (sales definition) The exaggerated statements made by a salesperson about the performance of a product or service.

Not only that, but this wonderful record
from ERIC:
Title: The Great American Blow-Up: Puffery in Advertising and Selling.
Authors: Preston, Ivan L.
Descriptors: Advertising; Communications; Consumer Education; Consumer Protection; Federal Legislation; Laws; Mass Media; Merchandise Information; Propaganda; Public Relations; Publicize; Television Commercials

Publisher: The University of Wisconsin Press, Box 1379, Madison, Wisconsin 53701 ($11.95 cloth)
Publication Date: 1975-05-00
Pages: 345
Pub Types: Books
Abstract: Puffery refers to advertising statements which are not illegal, though they cannot be proven to be true. By legal definition, puffery is advertising or other sales representations which praise the item to be sold with subjective opinions, superlatives, or exaggerations, vaguely and generally, stating no specific facts. This book examines the history of puffery in advertising and selling, its present uses and effects on the consumer, its legal ramifications and governmental controls, and some recommendations for the eradication of false puffery. Such topics are discussed as falsity without deception, the roots of sellerism [emphasis mine], misrepresentation, avoiding the facts, the Federal Trade Commission, and puffery. Numerous examples of puffery are given and discussed. (TS)

Oh well, I could go on and on, but frankly, all this research is ruining the sheer joy I got from happening upon the word this afternoon. [Is "sellerism" an actual word?]

Massive change of topic alert:
I have been taken to task for promising a blog entry (or two) and not delivering. I swear I was going to tell the promised stories without the prodding...

Ford/Japan/WebINK/Michigan connection

When I was little, president Ford came to visit Japan.

Ford factoid I knew and still remember from that time: Ford had a reputation for tripping on airplane stairs.

My dad announced that our family was going to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Tokyo and "See the President."

I do remember wondering (and asking) why we cared since "Ford was Republican" and we were "Democrats." (My understanding at the time was the following: Democrats cared about people (good), and Republicans did not (bad) and furthermore, a previous Republican president had gotten into very bad trouble for lying about a water gate.)

So of course, I wondered why in the world this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Democrat family to make a big deal out of going to see a (fibbing (but he did not lie), clumsy (but not really clumsy, after all, he was an ex-football player at Michigan) Republican - even if he was the President. I think the fact that Ford was a Michigan alum tipped the scales in his favor, but all I remember is that the concept of "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the President of the United States visiting the Emperor of Japan" and "experiencing history" was reiterated.

So we went, and I remember proudly waving a little tiny American flag (they were handed out) as the Fords went by (can't remember if I actually saw him, but maybe I did? I think there was some kind of Military family pep rally too) and being cold and eating cup-o-noodles with the freeze dried shrimp in them to warm up (but they didn't call them cup-o-noodles then, we called it "instant ramen".) But who knows if the freezing cold, Ford and cup-o-noodles happened on the same day?! Could have been summer, and I've munged a few memories together.

Nevertheless, years went by, Presidents came and Presidents went, and one day I was working at the Internet Public Library (IPL) at the University of Michigan School of Information and creating a magazine for Kids and teachers called "WebINK: (Internet Newsletter for Kids) to try to fund the IPL. One of the issues was about Politics and I remembered that President Ford was a Michigan grad. So of course, we contacted the archivist of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential library (which is in Ann Arbor) and asked if we could have some photos so that we could do a story on him.

Fast forward to the last week in December 2006, and the death of President Ford, death of Bo Schembechler and Michigan making the Rosebowl. My brother and I decided to surprise my dad with a Rosebowl/Pasadena visit including a "Chalk Talk" with Jim Harbaugh and his father. (I was the lucky trip companion.) Jim and his father had lots of Bo Schembechler stories, and one funny President Ford story. (After the loss in the presidential race against Carter, Ford visited the team, got in the huddle with the players, and said: "Do you know the side-sweep? I want you to sweep on over to the left and take out the reporters on the sidelines.")

Sadly, Michigan never seriously challenged USC and the Rosebowl game was pretty sad.

After we returned home on January 2nd, we watched a good bit of the Ford funeral coverage on TV. During the funeral they showed the Ford family and my dad commented that one of the Ford grandchildren was the spitting image of Ford as a child. That was pretty subjective, because after all, who had a picture of Ford as a child? I thought for a moment, said, "Wait!" and jumped up to see if I could find my bound copies of WebINk.

Lo and behold, there on the cover of the Politics issue was the picture I had used of President Ford as a child.

Yes, we all agreed, the grandchild WAS the spitting image of his grandfather.

So there you have it, Japan, WebINK, Michigan, Rosebowl and President Ford.

Puffery, now that is one cool word.

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