Broadcast advertising that claims that Tropicana Farmstand is the “world’s best fruit and vegetable juice” is puffery, the National Advertising Division determined in a challenge brought by Campbell Soup Co., the maker of competitive fruit and vegetable juice V8 V-Fusion.
Campbell challenged express claims in the television ad that “Tropicana Farmstand is the world’s best fruit and vegetable juice” and “If you want the world’s best fruit and vegetable juice, look in the cooler. Introducing Tropicana Farmstand, a deliciously chilled fruit and vegetable juice.” As the voiceover instructs viewers to look in the cooler, shelves of non-refrigerated juice products crash to the floor.
The commercial conveyed a false superiority message linked to the message of refrigeration, Campbell argued. Taken together with the crashing shelves of competitive products, the ad communicates that all other fruit and vegetable juice products are inferior.
In support of its case, Campbell commissioned a consumer perception study, where a nationwide sample of 368 consumers responded to open-ended questions about the commercial to determine their takeaways. The survey found that 51.9 percent of respondents took away a superiority message.
But the ad constitutes classic puffery, Tropicana Products responded. The statement “world’s best fruit and vegetable juice” is nothing more than an advertiser’s pride in a new product and was a “vague, general expression of opinion” for which consumers would not expect substantiation. Nothing in the commercial is expressly comparative, Tropicana added, and the suggestion to “look in the cooler” was simply a message intended to show consumers where to find the product.
As for the consumer perception study, Tropicana said it was fatally flawed because it lacked a control.
Noting that claims for “world’s best” may constitute puffery depending on the context of the advertisement, the NAD considered whether the use of the superlative was “vague and fanciful” or if it used adjectives accompanied by specific attributes suggesting the product was better in a recognizable or measurable way.
The self-regulatory body found Campbell’s consumer perception survey to contain “several significant flaws,” of which one was the lack of a control. Although the survey reported more than half of respondents took away a superiority message, the NAD noted that a relatively low percentage of respondents reported specific messages of superiority, with just 13 percent indicating a message of superior freshness for Tropicana Farmstand and only 6.8 percent specifying a message of taste superiority.
Rejecting Campbell’s reliance upon the survey results, the NAD then stepped into the shoes of the consumer and sided with Tropicana.
“Other than the fact that Tropicana Farmstand is refrigerated, the commercial makes no reference to any other product attribute,” the NAD wrote. The depiction of other juice products crashing to the floor is “fanciful,” according to the decision, distinguishing commercials where a competitive product is “thrown away by someone or otherwise denigrated.”
“NAD found that the challenged commercial was puffery and did not communicate a specific message of superiority,” the self-regulatory body concluded.
To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.
Why it matters: The NAD’s decision provides a quick recap for advertisers on what constitutes puffery. When evaluating claims that a product is the “best,” the self-regulatory body will evaluate the context of the advertisement. “If the use of the superlative is vague and fanciful and suggests no objective measure of superiority, then the claim is likely to be puffery,” the decision explained. “If, on the other hand, adjectives such as ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ are accompanied by specific attributes which are likely to suggest that the product is comparatively ‘better’ in some recognizable or measurable way, the defense of ‘puffery’ is unlikely to prevail.”