"Alex From Target" May Or May Not Be A Big Marketing Scam [UPDATED]

It's all very confusing.

  • UPDATE: November 5, 7:17 a.m.

    In an interview with Buzzfeed, Leonares, the CEO of Breakr, says that his company tried to drum up support for the photo of Alex (for whatever reason) after it was originally tweeted by @Auscalum.

    Leonares said Breakr’s three-person team and their social media network then drummed up support for it in a Google Hangout full of small-time content creators and Twitter users who work with the company. He likened their effect on the hashtag to when One Direction’s millions of followers create trending topics.

    Leonares refused multiple times to name specific members of Breakr’s Twitter user network. Breakr’s Twitter account has only 1,200 followers but he said they’re strategic influencers.

    So, here's the timeline, according to Leonares:
    1) Someone takes a photo of Alexander LeBeouf at a Target in Texas.
    2) Auscalum sees the photo on Tumblr and tweets it.
    3) Breakr, for a still unknown reason, spreads the photo through their "network" of "influencers" who are all "teenage girls."
    4) I write 12 articles about it.

    Just to be clear, Breakr is not taking credit for Alex's existence in the metaphysical universe, just for the viral spread of the photo. Here's LeBeouf's interview on The Ellen Show.



    Is #AlexFromTarget a hoax? Or is the hoax that he's a hoax?!?!

    That's right, it seems that "Breakr," the marketing company (in beta) claiming responsibility for the Alex from Target craze has no actual proof they had anything to do with the fetching retail employee's overnight rise to stardom. Though Breakr referred to Twitter user @Auscalum as "one of our fangirls," and an integral early part of spreading the "Alex" meme, @Auscalum herself denies any connection to the company, and points out that she was not one of the first to actually share Alex's photo.

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    On his Twitter account, Alex also denies any knowledge of Breakr or their activities. Have we been duped? Is Alex a bonafide fangirl sensation, and Breakr just a poser? Please know that What's Trending will continue to follow this vital, breaking story as it develops!

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  • November 4, 2014

    Viral sensations are like terrorist attacks. Some group of scum will always take credit for them.

    In this case, the scum is a company named Breakr and a dude named Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares. They wanted to explore the true power of "the fangirl demographic," and they found that it is very powerful indeed.

    They showed one of their fangirls (yes, Leonares actually claims ownership over a teenage girl) the photo of Alex and asked if she would spread it among her network. They then tweeted about it to "bigger YouTube influencers," and the rest is history. Leonares writes:

    After the dust settles, there is a lesson to be made here; from brands, talent agencies, music labels and influencer marketing companies: if you can earn the love and respect from a global community such as the 'Fangirl' demographic - you can rally them together to drive awareness for any cause even if its to take a random kid from unknown to stardom over night.

    He's right. Make them love you and they'll hawk whatever crummy product you want. It's positively Machiavellian. Breakr is now going to make a ton of money from "content creators" (i.e. websites and YouTube channels like this one), who want their content to go viral.

    They have proven a very important point, though. We have no power over what becomes popular in our society. Most of us have known for years that the songs on the radio are not selected because they are truly the best songs, but because large corporations have decided that they are the easiest ones to sell.

    But now, even the Internet, what was once thought of as a true meritocracy, can be manipulated as easily as the Twitter feeds of a few 14-year-old girls. Alex From Target became a meme because they wanted it to, and now I've written several hundred words about it. It takes up the time that I could have spent writing about a great short film uploaded to Vimeo, or a beautiful piece of music uploaded to an independent artist's Soundcloud.

    None of those things matter. Every website you go to, every article you see on Gawker, Buzzfeed and, will be about whatever the marketing board rooms of Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York want you to see. And poor Alex will sacrifice the next several years of his life attempting to squeeze whatever money he can from this temporary fame. He'll grow up possibly thinking that he has a life of privilege ahead of him because children think he's cute.

    I'll keep writing about the Alex From Targets of the world, no doubt. Some of them will be funny stories, some of them not so much. For at least a little while, I had hoped that they would be things that just happened — little sparks of signal among the rest of the Internet noise. Now I know that any signal we get has already been sent out in a press release, packaged for public consumption, and prepped to scan through the Target conveyor belt.


    Oh, here's a photo of Alex on Ellen:

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