A viral Instagram account appearing to be a construction worker-turned influencer has been revealed to be an elaborate marketing ploy by Texas-based coffee shop Cuvée Coffee.
The account, @justaconstructionguy, was initially created in May and came to widespread attention when a tweet by Twitter user @barbzlovescarbs went viral (the tweet has since either been deleted or made private). In the tweet, @barbzlovescarbs claimed their father, construction worker Omar, had asked them “what an influencer was”.
“And after I explained, he said ‘Pshh, I could do that.’ Well…he did,” tweeted @barbzlovescarbs, along with a link to Omar’s Instagram account.
The account, which features Omar trying to prove that he has what it takes to become an influencer while poking fun at it all, quickly went viral, with social media users enjoying Omar’s fun and unique take on influencer culture.
However, it has recently been revealed by Buzzfeed News (BN) that the backstory tweeted by @barbzlovescarbs is entirely false – the Instagram account, which has amassed more than 400,000 followers in just a month, was actually the brainchild of Mike McKim, the owner of Austin’s Cuvée Coffee, in collaboration with advertising agency Bandolier Media, as a marketing campaign for the coffee shop.
“The whole idea was what we always thought as an influencer, and what we used as an influencer in the past, they don’t always fit our brand,” McKim explained. “We need a different type of influencer: a hard-worker, blue-collar guy.”
“Let’s create the influencers — I shouldn’t say create…let’s find the influencer — that we couldn’t find. We pay them to make posts for us. That was the goal. Sometimes traditional influencers just don’t feel genuine,” he added.
In addition to creating the account, narrative, and persona, McKim also arranged for professional photoshoots. While Omar is a real construction worker based in Austin, he has no hand in managing the account (although he is compensated for participating in the photoshoots), and all of the posting and marketing is handled by Bandolier. Omar was recruited to participate in the project from among the regular clientele of Cuvée Coffee, the majority of which McKim claims is made up of construction workers from nearby sites.
McKim also added that they had no idea who had tweeted the fake backstory for Omar which propelled the account to its viral status, while Bandolier did not respond to BNs’ request for comment.
While Omar’s story may have appealed to many, several telltale signs can be spotted throughout the account now that the real backstory has been made public. As pointed out by BN, many of the posts have directly tagged Cuvée Coffee, the construction equipment in the pictures shows minimal wear and tear, the photographs themselves are of professional quality, and the account bio describes Omar as a “Coffee Lover”, in addition to a construction worker, family man, and lifestyle influencer.