Malibu toy maker Jakks Pacific has hired Bender/Helper Impact as its PR agency for the launch of Monsuno, a new line of toy fantasy animals similar to Pokemon.

For Jakks, the Monsuno project is potentially a bet-the-company proposition. Last year, downtown L.A.-based Oaktree Capital made an unsolicited offer to buy the company and take it private, but Jakks avoided the takeover by promising investors “potentially transformative projects planned and already under way (that) will provide significantly greater value to the company’s stockholders.”

The Monsuno line will be promoted on a Nickelodeon cable channel show and through a Topps trading card game.

Bender/Helper will handle media relations and online promotions. Also, the agency is in the process of scheduling promotional events at malls. Co-founder Dean Bender said the campaign will target boys 6 to 11 and their parents.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with anime and video games for boys, so we know how to go after both targets,” Bender said. “Of course, when you have an animated series, that helps visibility.”

The agency’s most recent experience comparable to the Monsuno launch was the reintroduction of the Power Rangers for Century City-based Saban Brands last year. The new show, “Power Rangers Samurai,” also runs on Nickelodeon.

“(Nickelodeon is) very good at on-air promotions, and we will support them through avenues that TV people don’t go after,” Bender said.

The PR campaign will launch at the Toy Industry Association’s annual show in New York on Feb. 12-15 and continue for the rest of this year.

Government PR

McConnell Government Relations has merged with downtown L.A. political advocacy firm Englander Knabe & Allen.

Jeff McConnell, former president of his downtown namesake firm, has joined EKA as senior vice president. He brings with him a long list of contacts and a history of securing government contracts for his clients.

“Jeff’s encyclopedic knowledge of the issues and structure of the city and county of Los Angeles allowed him to be immediately successful when he opened his own firm,” Managing Partner Harvey Englander said in a statement. “I have been continually impressed by his deep understanding of his clients’ business.”

McConnell’s clients will come with him to EKA.

Hospitality Online

Phelps Group has signed on as the new agency for Luxury Link Travel Group, a website publisher in the travel industry.

The Santa Monica agency will handle advertising, PR and marketing for Luxury Link.

The client operates LuxuryLink.com, a site that sells vacation packages for upscale travelers; FamilyGetaway.com that sells deals for families; and Vacationist.com, a discount site for fancy hotels and resorts.

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