Who says that you need to grind on a middle-aged pop singer to change your image? The video of One Direction members smoking weed is burning up the Internet, but it may be little more than a well-executed ploy to cement their status as grown-up bad boys.

They're known for dancing badly and singing typical teenage pop schlock, but the band has been testing the waters for some time. Seeing Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik hand a joint back and forth as they talk about "contraband" and an upcoming trip to Jamaica is so obvious that it could have been scripted. In fact, it might have been. The video was "leaked" to the Daily Mail, which suggests some possible press collusion. While they've been trying on leather, stubble and bandannas as part of an edgier image, One Direction are still very much managed, impeccably media-trained and presumably under iron-clad contracts binding them to Simon Cowell.

Being caught with illegal substances on tape is either a completely foolhardy way to risk their many sponsorships and deals, or it could just be part of a wider strategy to age them in the public's estimation. The relatively calm response from One Direction's management suggests that it's not a complete PR nightmare that could break the band up. They seem as unsurprised as most of the fandom, which had fun with the #replace1Dsongswithjoint hashtag on Twitter.

While there were the token fangirls posting about their devastation and even some more disturbed elements posting photos of self-harm (as fans did for Justin Bieber when he was caught smoking up), it was about as exciting as when Jennifer Lawrence was photographed injecting one whole marijuana. That is to say, not very. Their pre-concert smoke even has the air of a ritual. Weed has the codename "chicken," and their joints are even rolled up for them - like an illicit packed lunch that everyone probably knows about.

"I'm sitting here in Peru wondering, will this come back to me? Who knows?" Louis said as he very obviously took a very obvious drag from a very obvious roll-up. Such a line seems oddly deliberate, especially as he was the one filming the video. It did come back, and will keep coming back, and he seemed fine with that.

Louis and Zayn also took great delight in slagging off their latest book, which is a random topic to discuss at any time. They expressed a desire for a book on "what we're up to now... Full of sick pictures, sick shit instead of the boring crap." Could this gentle rebellion be any more stage-managed?

The boring crap is what has made the band into millionaires many times over, but this isn't the first time that they've shown frustration at their prescribed boy band roles. Midnight Memories, their latest album, was all about moving towards an adult contemporary sound. It was more overt in its discussion of sex, staying up late and topics suitable to young 20-somethings. Louis, Zayn and Harry Styles have wallpapered themselves with tattoos and take obvious delight in swearing, drinking and now - smoking.

While they're locked into a record deal until 2016, they're not just talent show puppets any more. As Louis said in an interview the day before: "...the longer we stay in the band, the more control we feel we get over everything."

And with that control they're moving away from the sugary boyband stereotype. A goofy and unconcealed drug video is just another re-branding strategy. All that was missing was Miley Cyrus's giant foam finger pointing to it.

Or as Matt Healy, vocalist for The 1975 and friend of the band, tweeted: "worlds biggest boyband, who are in their 20's, seen smoking weed!? SHOCKING! what's next? famous super models doing cocaine?!"