Charlie Cheerios OriginalIn the fall of 2010, Cheerios had a contest where parents could win a $10 000 donation to their child’s college fund. The idea was to share a photo of your child experiencing a “Cheerios Milestone.”

Cheerios were an important part of our children’s growth to finger foods and so we submitted a picture of Charlie staring menacingly over the Cheerios on his tray table.

The picture was selected as a runner-up. We didn’t win the big prize, but we did win Cheerios for a year, and it was a pretty cool thing to see our son on the box.

And we thought that was it .. until .. this morning, when General Mills called me back with some more news…

They were launching a new campaign called Life Made Delicious, and they were going to be using Charlie’s image as the key media piece for the campaign.

Note they called to tell me they were using the image, not ask me. When I submitted the image for the contest, I signed over rights to them. They could now do what they wanted with the photo. They’ve retouched the original image to change the room he’s in, and tossed him into a branded onesie.

By submitting our picture for the original contest which we did not win, we signed over all our rights to the image.

So my son is now an avatar for a breakfast cereal company’s Facebook account, he’s the face of their social media app, and basically the face of the brand; the spokesbaby if you will.

Charlie on Cheerios

It’s all exciting and awesome except for the part where we didn’t win the $10 000 for his college fund, and aren’t getting compensated beyond a few cases of Cheerios from the company. (which is gravy, because they really didn’t even owe us that)

Now, let’s be perfectly clear. The bragging rights on this latest milestone for Charlie are awesome. Every time we do groceries in the spring, Zacharie will stand in front of the cereal aisle to stop and tell every passer by “That’s my BROTHER!” He will turn around the boxes so the picture shows, and we will all celebrate.

Charlie, himself, is a year older and will have more excitement about seeing his picture on the boxes every morning over breakfast. It’s all going to be fun and exciting around our house for the next year except, well, we still have to save for his college fund.

So .. when you enter that photo contest, read the fine print and pause. You are signing over that image forever and they can do whatever they want with it.


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