On Tuesday morning, a woman named Tegan tweeted a picture of a floppy eared, brown eyed smol boi sitting in the front seat of her car. “Sooo... I found a puppy in a ditch on my way to work this morning. How was your day?!” she excitedly wrote. In a 15-tweet thread—complete with Madea and Anchorman gifs—she explained how she saw the pupper on the side of the road, picked him up, and took him to a Wisconsin Humane Society where she learned that a “very bad person” had left the dog and his three siblings in a rural area and, although his sisters were taken to the shelter, he was somehow left behind.
She ended up adopting the pup and naming him Larry, and it would be a very nice story indeed if it weren’t for one suspicious detail. “[The dog] ran away from me at first. I went to find a snack in my lunchbox and it had snuck up behind me,” she wrote. “All I had that would interest this little lover was a @SargentoCheese Balanced Breaks—the white cheddar/nuts/cranberry one. It was either that or salad.”
That’s right, the dog was lured to her car with an oddly specific snack (with white Cheddar! And nuts! And cranberries!) and some people are starting to think this is the most blatant product placement since Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin told him to “Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine.”
“That viral thread about the lady finding a puppy is a fuckin sargento cheese ad,” one appropriately cynical individual tweeted. Another questioned whether “Big Cheese” would pay for someone to adopt a dog but, since this is 2019 and everything is fucking bonkers and brands are trying to be our anxious and relatable best friends, that shouldn’t even be in doubt. (MUNCHIES has reached out to Sargento for comment but has not yet received a response.)
We don’t know for sure that this is an advertisement for the deliciously arranged marriage of savory white Cheddar and sweet dried cranberries in Sargento Balanced Breaks, but if it is, then the Federal Trade Commission isn’t gonna like it. In the FTC Endorsement Guide, the agency explains that any “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser—like, say, a monetary payment, or free Balanced Breaks, or a dog’s adoption fee—has to be clearly revealed in any related social media post. “[I]n other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement—that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication,” it writes.
But—BUT!—if Tegan just really likes Sargento, actually had its cheese in her car, and just happened to use it to lure this strangely calm dog into her vehicle, then she doesn’t have to do anything other than take pictures and @ a cheese company. “If you write about how much you like something you bought on your own and you’re not being rewarded, you don’t have to worry,” the FTC says. “However, if you’re doing it as part of a sponsored campaign or you’re being compensated—for example, getting a discount on a future purchase or being entered into a sweepstakes for a significant prize—then a disclosure is appropriate.”
We should all be delighted that this big-eyed pupperoni has a home, regardless of what kind of portable snack kit was used to convince him to climb into his now-owner’s car, but there’s part of us that will probably wonder forever whether this was all manufactured by Big Cheese. Much like the Big Flavor of Sargento Balanced Breaks.