It's entertaining to discover a meme at the beginning. The bizarre behind photo-shops placing a random naked man (unfortunately, not censored, but fortunately, not essential to the meme) into the background of other photos has its origins in a children's clothing company from France.
As reported by news.com.au, La Redoute published a product photo of four children playing on the beach. For whatever reason, the photo editor failed to see the large naked man standing in the background on the beach. The unexpected addition to the shot did not go unnoticed by customers and the photo was taken down--just not fast enough to avoid notice.
Now it's growing into a silly meme. Much of the joy comes from placing the naked man into a variety of inappropriate situations. He can be seen embedded on top of the Apple logo (left), ruining a vacation photo of the Simpsons, or terrorizing Ripley in outer space. It's the absurdity of the image drawing focus from something far more interesting that gives this meme its power.
Frankly, I find the variations on the theme without the nudity to be much more rewarding. For example, some people are beginning to insert other distracting features into the background of the original advertisement. My favorite is the tentacles (right). Even other memes are being pulled in, such as Nyancat or the various 4Chan regulars.
Will the La Redoute scandal have staying power as an image meme? It's hard to tell. The source is a bit obscure. Know Your Meme is already reporting that La Redoute has other merchandise that is drawing focus, such as a misspelled "Enjoy Holydays" t-shirt, that could splinter the meme before it really revs up. There's also suspicion that the entire thing is a trumped up publicity stunt for the brand to gain international appeal.
Regardless of its future success and motivation, the La Redoute scandal is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame right now. It's a perfect blend of corporate mistakes, visual absurdity, and recognizable icon. And now you know where that came from.