The Jim Henson Company, who has recently and quite disappointingly been attempting to recruit writers and bloggers* into an unpaid promotional program called “The Jim Henson Family Hub” aka “The Hubbub,” is following-up their rights-grab “contest” to design a new creature for their forthcoming Labyrinth series (the “winner” receives a measly pittance of just $500 in exchange for the rights to their creation) with the announcement of a new series based on the popular female action figures by IAmElemental. Henson’s recent shortcomings aside, IAmElemental is a fantastic toy line – one of our favorites here at Rock Father HQ, and the announcement of a series is great news. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’ll do with this, and very happy to see the work of IAmElemental‘s Julie Kerwin and crew being recognized!
From the Official Announcement: The series will target children ages 6 to 12. The deal will give The Jim Henson Company the opportunity to develop and produce the television series across all platforms. Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford of The Jim Henson Company will serve as executive producers.
IAmElemental created the first-ever female action figures designed specifically for children. Its Series 1/Courage figures include Bravery, Honesty, Fear, Enthusiasm, Energy, Industry and Persistence. Series 2/Wisdom includes Creativity, Ingenuity, Curiosity, Logic, Exploration, Mastery and Oblivion. The company conducted a Kickstarter campaign which was fully funded in two days, drawing backers from all 50 states and six continents, and its groundbreaking products were named by TIME Magazine as one of the “25 Best Inventions of 2014” and “Top 10 Toys of 2014.” Most recently, IAmElemental was selected as a finalist in the 2018 “Action Figure of the Year” category at the Toy Industry Association’s Toy of the Year Awards. The company was also a 2017 finalist in two categories, “Action Figure of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year.”
“At The Jim Henson Company, we have a tradition of creating strong female heroes in our past and current television and film franchises,” said Halle Stanford, President of Television at The Jim Henson Company. “Partnering with IAmElemental is incredibly exciting because it will be our first foray into the superhero genre with a cast of powerful young women at its core. We are excited to introduce a unique and fresh superhero television series geared for children all over the world.”
“We are thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to work with the Superhero team at The Jim Henson Company,” said Julie Kerwin, Chief Elemental Officer, IAmElemental. “Their Superpowers of creativity and originality have inspired me both as a child and as an adult, and I couldn’t wish for a better partner to bring the IAmElemental messages of character strength and empowerment to a wider audience.”
*Now, some words from The Rock Father™: There is a growing trend among entertainment media companies (including television networks, studios and distributors) in which they recruit online writers, bloggers, YouTubers and other media personalities into self-serving, unpaid promotional work. Often under the guise of a “partnership” or “ambassador” position, select companies are abusing those terms to promote their projects by taking advantage of creatives who are generally underpaid as-is, usually in exchange for the infamous “exposure” paired with swag, trinkets and gifts, sometimes alongside access to media or press events.
The Jim Henson Company is currently working this model for their “Jim Henson Family Hub,” also known as “The Hubbub.” I know this first-hand because they tried to get me involved with it… but I do not work for free, nor do I work in exchange for “perks.”
A true Brand Ambassadorship is a mutual privilege for both the sponsoring company and the individual representing them as a “partner” or “ambassador.”
One point of particular note in the pitch from The Jim Henson Company was a line that stated that members of their program would be asked to “provide feedback and opinions on Henson projects and products that are in development.” That is a consulting role, and should be treated and paid as such – PERIOD.
Lines have been blurred in recent years when it comes to media relationships, and the variables between earned media and sponsorship can be confusing. But there are ways to make it work for the benefit of all parties, and sadly, I’m not liking what I’ve seen from The Jim Henson Company of late… but they are far from alone.
“I don’t make money, I make gifts.How am I supposed to pay taxes with bathtub compact disc players and autographed drumsticks? I need cash. Moola. Wampum. Dead Presidents…” — Andrew Dice Clay as Ford Fairlane (1990)