Apologies, conspiracy theorists: recent revelations would seem to suggest that Alex From Target, the shaggy-haired heartthrob who shot to instantaneous viral stardom, is not the product of an enigmatic marketing machine but rather an upshot of good old-fashioned teen dreaming -- combined with the Internet’s own bewildering penchant for populating memes.
In a CNET report yesterday, a beta startup called Breakr, which says it helps rouse and rally online fandoms, confoundingly claimed responsibility for Alex’s ascent -- including his now roughly 50,000 Twitter followers and a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“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,” Breakr founder Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares wrote in a blog post on LinkedIn.
Leonares said that one of the company’s UK-based fangirls, Abbie (@auscalum), was the first to post the picture of Dallas-based Alex, whereupon Breakr mobilized its other social influencers to hop on the #AlexFromTarget bandwagon.
There’s just one problem: Abbie claims to have no knowledge or affiliation with Breakr, adding that she simply found the photo on Tumblr and retweeted it. Alex also noted -- via Twitter, naturally -- that he and his family have nothing to do with Breakr. All this despite Leonares’ initial claims to CNET that the company owns its buzzing fandoms and manages the idols they subsequently worship.
Now, Leonares is stepping back from those initial claims, telling BuzzFeed that the phenomenon was “all a chain reaction that Breakr happened to be a part of.”
He also updated his blog post to state: “Abbie (@auscalum) and Alex Lee (@acl163) were never employed by Breakr. A side from Abbie being a follower and tweeting the photo, we jumped on it with the hashtag #AlexFromTarget.”
Target, for its part, while tickled by the strange spectacle, also says it is not affiliated with Breakr and had nothing to do with spinning Alex into a viral star.
"Let us be completely clear,” the company said in a statement, “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."
Related: Why Ello Suddenly Went Viral