The claim “World’s Best Glass Cleaner” is puffery, the National Advertising Division decided in a challenge brought by S. C. Johnson & Son Inc. against advertiser PLZ Aeroscience Corporation.

PLZ’s “Sprayway” product featured the claim on its label under the picture of an American flag and the statement “Made in the USA since 1947.” The challenger told the NAD that because “world’s best” was tied to a product function (the cleaning of glass) it was a broad superiority claim that required PLZ to provide evidence demonstrating the product’s superior cleaning performance as compared to its competitors.

The advertiser countered that the term “World’s Best” was part of the product name and a registered trademark since 1995 that included a stylized logo featuring the image of a smiling woman in high heels wearing a 1950’s style shirtdress with a frilly apron, holding a spray can in her right hand and a cleaning cloth in the other.

Both parties presented the self-regulatory body with consumer perception surveys, but the NAD expressed concern about basing its decision on either survey, noting that federal courts “are divided on whether consumer perception evidence can be admitted to assess whether an advertising claim is puffery.” Given that both parties used “a novel design” for their studies that yielded “widely divergent” results, the NAD elected to step into the shoes of the consumer.

Noting that “puffery is more an art than a science” that needs to be evaluated in context to determine if any misleading messages are conveyed, the NAD reviewed the claim and found it constituted puffery. It emphasized that the words “World’s Best” appeared in “significantly smaller” font than the words “Glass Cleaner.”

“The small sizing of the ‘World’s Best’ claim juxtaposed against the nostalgic image of the woman in an apron and the dramatically larger descriptor ‘Glass Cleaner’ claim rendered ‘World’s Best’ an exaggerated display of the advertiser’s pride in its product (puffery) rather than an objectively provable fact requiring testing against its competitors worldwide as substantiation,” the self-regulatory body concluded.

Other statements on the label (such as “Ammonia Free” and “It’s Streakless!”) were physically separated from the headline claim and were not in sufficient proximity to “World’s Best Glass Cleaner” to render it an objectively provable claim, the NAD added. Therefore, “in the context in which it appears on the challenged product label, ‘World’s Best Glass Cleaner’ constitutes puffery and as such does not require substantiation.”

To read the NAD’s press release about the case, click here.

Why it matters: The NAD emphasized the size differential between the phrases “World’s Best” and “Glass Cleaner,” finding the label to be an “exaggerated statement” of the advertiser’s pride in its product rather than an objectively provable claim. The self-regulatory body also noted that the federal courts are divided as to whether consumer perception evidence can be admitted to assess whether an advertising claim is puffery, with some courts refusing to consider such evidence and others requiring it to establish what messages are reasonably conveyed.