Nothing is real. (Twitter)
After backlash on Twitter from Alex, Target, and the account that first tweeted the now-famous photo of Alex, the CEO of Breakr, who claimed responsibility for the meme, has backpedalled in a BuzzFeed interview, saying he simply “drummed up support for it.” So, yay. The “Alex from Target” meme is real!
Santa Claus is an advertising ploy. The Easter Bunny is a myth. And “Alex from Target” is actually a viral marketing campaign?
Yes, the cute teenage cashier, who seemed to come out of nowhere to woo the Internet, may not be the innocent bystander we thought.
Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, the CEO of a new company called Breakr, has come forward to claim responsibility for the sensation in a LinkedIn post, first spotted by CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk. Breakr, he says, is meant to connect “fans with their fandom” and help small content creators spread their messages — implying that Breakr is the future’s Internet factory for teen heartthrobs.
“We saw two sides of the conversation happening with people joining in to support the hashtag just to trend it and the other side of people getting upset that a guy with good looks could become ‘internet famous’ with no work,” he said in his post. “In reality, when you look at the whole situation from a macro view you can see that if we can build an individual’s fan-base on Breakr, we can translate that powerful following into a bigger career.”
The boy is real. The virality, maybe, is not. (Twitter)
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Target was in on the stunt. According to Leonares, the idea to share a photo of Alex came from a member of Breakr’s kid fan base (which is apparently a thing that exists). That member worked with Alex and asked for his permission to take a photo. After he complied, the photo was tweeted from one of Breakr’s “fangirls” (employees?) in London, and it caught fire from there.
Leonares said he hopes Breakr will cash in on campaigns like this by becoming the manager of the phenomena it creates, and taking a cut of the profits from them.
“We also manage our kids so any brand deal we do with them, we take a [percentage],” he told CNET. “Like a startup incubator but focused on social influencers.”
Leonares says he’s currently in talks to negotiate a deal with Target. But a press representative from Target said she was not aware of any discussions with Breakr. In a statement released Tuesday night, the retailer reaffirmed it had nothing to do with the meme:
“We value Alex as a team member, and from the first moment we saw this photo beginning to circulate, we shared that the Target team was as surprised as anyone. That remains the truth today. Let us be completely clear, we had absolutely nothing to do with the creation, listing or distribution of the photo. And we have no affiliation whatsoever with the company that is taking credit for its results.”
The supposed Twitter account of the real Alex from Target also denied he had anything to do with Leonares’ company.
When reached for comment, Leonares told Yahoo Tech that CNET’s original report got key information wrong, and that he had never claimed to have coordinated with one of Alex’s co-workers, or the original account that tweeted his photo. He told Yahoo Tech that his company got involved because “It seemed like a very interesting way to see just how far this fangirl demographic can take things.” But he failed to track his company’s influence, or explain how exactly a company Twitter account with some 1,300 followers could be influential.
In other words, it seems Leonares original LinkedIn post was purposefully vague and misleading, so he could piggyback on “Alex from Target’s” fame.
At least we can all rest assured that Ellen DeGeneres, who posted a photo with Alex from Target on Twitter yesterday, will set the record straight soon.
This post has been updated.