'Alex From Target' May Be Internet Marketing Campaign

The Internet giveth and marketing companies taketh away. A recent, wildly popular Internet meme called "Alex from Target" may have been a marketing prank, according to Gawker. If so, it's one that took in millions, including news outlets and even Ellen Degeneres. However, the young woman who started the entire event with a tweet said that she's never heard of the marketing company claiming credit.

The "Alex from Target" photo launched a teen in a red shirt who happened to be bagging goods at one of the chain's locations into instant Internet fame. On Sunday, a Twitter user with the handle @auscalum posted a photo of Alex. Within 24 hours, there were a million mentions of him. Degeneres tweeted at him and visited the teen at his Target of employment choice.

But the attention, which seemed to be a celebration of an attractive kid getting attention for no particularly good reason, may be more calculated. Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, CEO of a Beverly Hills, California-based social media company called Breakr, claimed to be responsible for the phenomenon in a post on LinkedIn:

Yesterday, we had fun on Twitter with the hashtag #AlexFromTarget which ended up to be one of the most amazing social media experiments ever. 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.

In other words, Leonares claimed said it was an experiment to publicly prove that his company was effective. He did say that neither Abbie nor Alex Lee was employed by his company, although that isn't the same thing as saying they didn't cooperate.

Abbie posted that she had never heard of the company and didn't follow it. Perhaps Leonares is further twisting perceptions and actually had nothing to do with it. Or, if he did, were there other experiments that flopped? Who knows?

But even if Breakr had something to do with the event, taking credit for an Internet phenomenon is a dicey proposition. Many companies and people try to create content that will go viral, but you can't plan something that will suddenly catch fire on the Internet without significant, and likely expensive, support.

Whatever really happened, it looks as though the relatively innocent fun of #alexfromtarget is now officially over.
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