Alex From Target was a marketing stunt to manipulate teenage girls

It turns out that #AlexFromTarget was a marketing hoax, but not exactly the one you’d think.

#AlexFromTarget seems like it would be a viral campaign from Target. It’s right there in the hashtag, and the retailer even got in on the action with its own tweet. However, Breakr, a marketing company still in beta that’s aimed at “connecting fans with their fandom,” claimed responsibility for the viral sensation. In a LinkedIn post, Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, Breakr’s CEO, explains how the company activated fangirls in a social experiment that exceeded even their wildest expectations.

“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.”

The post details some of Breakr’s general tactics for keeping the #AlexFromTarget discussion going, although after the initial planting of the picture, it doesn’t seem like it needed to do much work, as the teenage fans were already off and running. As our own S.E. Smith pointed out this morning, “Alex From Target matters because of what he says about teen girls on the Internet, and the response to the meme matters because of what it says about how we think about teenage girls.”

At the very least, it’s not all a lie. Alex From Target, also known as Alex Lee, actually does work at a Target. One of the kids that Breakr works with knows him and got his permission to use his photo. But the Twitter user who posted the original picture, @auscalum, lives in London, according to CNET. From there, the image and the idea of Alex spread among her followers and grew into a Twitter phenomenon.  #AlexFromTarget currently has more than 559,000 followers

Now we wait for the fallout. @auscalum, who has more than 20,000 followers, has made her Twitter private, at least for now, and her authenticity might be very well damaged by taking part in the experiment. As for Alex, he landed in L.A. just six hours ago, headed for the Ellen show.  

Update 6:30pm CT, Nov. 4: @auscalum, the teen Breakr claims it planted the photo with, has unlocked her Twitter account and is claiming that she does not work for the company, doesn’t know who they are, and wasn’t the first person to post the photo anyway. 

Update 9:45pm CT, Nov. 4: #AlexFromTarget began with two Texas girls, predating Breakr’s alleged marketing campaign.

Update 10:03pm CT, Nov 4: Alex has spoken, saying he does not know Breakr

H/T CNET | Photo via Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

Rae Votta

Rae Votta

A former YouTube reporter for the Daily Dot, Rae Votta has more than a decade of experience in the digital and entertainment industries. Her work has appeared on AOL, Huffington Post, Out Magazine, Logo, VH1, Current TV, Billboard, and NYMag. She joined Netflix in 2016.