If you woke up this morning and after scanning your news feed wondered, “Who is “Alex from Target” and why do I care?” you are not alone. In what now appears to be an organic viral stunt take-over (despite claims from a marketing company to have orchestrated the stunt), “Alex from Target” became an overnight sensation after an image of his baby faced, bagging skills was Tweeted by a teen girl. It went down fast. Sunday afternoon Alex’s angelic mug was posted to Twitter; 24 hours later he had 300,000 new followers (you know you’re curious: @acl163) and was featured on CNN.

Viral stunts of 2014

In a confusing turn of events, a clearly above-board marketing company claims they created “Alex from Target.” They didn’t, but it got their name in the news and will probably bring in some less scrupulous business partners. It also gives us the opportunity to look back at some of 2014’s most incredible viral stunts that turned out to be marketing moments.

Dumb Starbucks

viral stunts

In February, a “Dumb Starbucks” opened its doors in Los Angeles. Not only did the Internet freak out, but people actually lined up around the block to order Dumb Espressos and buy Dumb Norah Jones CDs. Then it turned out to be part of a Comedy Central show hosted by comedian Nathan Fielder.

Where everybody knows your due date: a bar for pregnant women

viral stunts

Ah, Gestations, the “first bar for pregnant women.” Gestations, soon replaced by Blackbox bar for on-duty pilots, was just a way for an app called Bartendr to drum up publicity.

Ellen’s celebrity selfie


Was Ellen’s “spontaneous” Oscars moment really that spontaneous? Samsung spent an estimated $20 million on the show, and marketing chief Todd Pendleton told Adweek that it planned to have Ellen take a selfie with Meryl Streep using a Samsung smartphone. Ellen may have upped the stakes, but it was, essentially, an ad.

For more, check out TIME Magazine’s 7 Incredible Viral Moments That Turned Out to Be Marketing Stunts.