A picture of an Olive Garden receipt showing a free meal was posted to Reddit with a heartwarming story.
“My brother, wife, 3 year-old daughter and I went to Olive Garden after a recent house fire at my parents. When the manager asked how everything was my daughter said “Grandpa’s house burned down”. Here’s how we received the check,” reads the caption on Reddit.
But the feel-good tale ignited some controversy after an anonymous poster claimed he or she was in the advertising business and that the receipt was clearly a marketing ploy.
“That Olive Garden receipt is fake; it’s free advertising,” the person wrote. “I know because I work in advertising and have spoken to the people who plan these campaigns.”
The anonymous poster cited the clearly visible “Olive Garden” logo as evidence it was too good to be true.
Brands have been accused of fake-posting on Reddit before. An article by Ryan Holiday at betabeat.com explains why it would be a no-brainer for brands to try this free tactic.
“The best kind of marketing messages are the ones that don’t seem like marketing messages,” Holiday said. “Because it means that the viewers’ defenses are down.”
Olive Garden and its external advertising agency both told The Consumerist that the company had nothing to do with the post.
But because Reddit is anonymous, it’s hard to say whether any photo or story posted there is genuine.
Here’s the photo in question:
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