Everyone Still Confused by #AlexFromTarget

Alex Target

Beyond the regular old midterm elections, the big story last night concerned a certain guy who works at a certain Target location in Texas — and the agency claiming responsibility for his viral status.

Breakr, which told the world last night that it is “not a marketing company” but “a multi-platform entertainment network for gen-z and millennials,” took credit for the whole “event” in a LinkedIn post and an interview with Chris Matyszczyk of C|Net, claiming that the “experiment” demonstrated its ability to make something go viral with the help of a few overexcited teenage girls.

Reality looks a bit less newsworthy.

A couple of analytical posts from last night — one via writer Thomas Baekdal and one via brand planner Hiroki Murakami of Edelman — dispute the Breakr claim (as do the tweets of many in journalism and marketing).

Most amusingly, both the girl who shared the picture (NOT the one who took it) and Alex himself have no idea what Breakr is.

So what role did the company play in making the trend? The answer, it would seem, is “little to none.” Breakr’s CEO wrote:

“We wanted to see how powerful the fangirl demographic was by taking a unknown good-looking kid and Target employee from Texas to overnight viral internet sensation. Abbie (@auscalum), one of our fangirls from Kensington, UK posted this picture of Alex Lee (@acl163) on Twitter. After spreading the word amongst our fangirl followers to trend #AlexFromTarget, we started adding fuel to the fire by tweeting about it to our bigger YouTube influencers.”

…before clarifying that the Abbie named was never actually involved and, again, has no idea what the company is. Oh, and 67,000 views isn’t a very impressive total for a supposed influencer.

The timeline from Baekdal’s post, which is really worth a read:

  • Girl in Texas takes pic of cute boy who works at Target
  • Girl shares pic with her friend
  • Girl based in UK finds pic on Tumblr and shares it; hashtag develops
  • Breakr stumbles upon pic and “helps” it go even more viral by tweeting it at “our bigger YouTube influencers”
  • Breakr tries to claim that it organized the whole event in an attempt to win attention

Breakr even claimed that Alex was in on it and that he gave permission for his image to be used…a claim that is clearly false. And the company clarified its claim regarding Abbie (who didn’t even take the original picture, remember):

…except that they didn’t help start it.

This convoluted story tells us that the trend was as close to random as one can be online — and that any agency claiming that it can intentionally “orchestrate” virality is either lying or deluded.

But we knew that already, didn’t we?