Art and Commerce: Frances England and the Bisquick Blueberry Pancakes Ad

frances_england_pk2_th.jpgOne of the most winning songs off Frances England's debut disk Fascinating Creatures was "Blueberry Pancakes," whose chorus features England singing "blueberry paa-aaaaaaaan-cakes." (If you've heard it, you'll know I've transcribed that chorus accurately.) It was an obvious television ad waiting to be made, though it wasn't written with that in mind.

Well, Bisquick's ad agency finally got a listen, and drafted the tune for use in a Bisquick television ad. So I asked Frances a few questions about how the TV ad came about, which she's answered below.

As for the unasked question -- what does the ad look like? -- well, it's a live-action video depicting a family making, well, blueberry pancakes. Pretty simple, actually. Can't show it to you, though, as England reports that there are no internet rights associated with showing the video. (Tell you what, play 15 seconds of the song while your family makes pancakes this Saturday, and light and edit well. There you go.)

Zooglobble: "Blueberry Pancakes" seemed like an obvious fit for a pancake ad from the first time I heard -- how was the initial contact made?
Frances England: They contacted me. Apparently, they had already started production on the commercial when someone heard my song and they ended up kind of synchronizing their footage to the song.
What sort of decisions did you need to make as the artist/licensee relative to the ad or your song's use?
At one point someone asked me if I’d be open to changing the lyrics of the song from “blueberry pancakes” to “bisquick pancakes.” It was that one question I was hoping no one would ask and my initial reaction was no. But then I started thinking about how the licensing fee could really help pay for the new cd we are working on and I started reconsidering. But I felt incredibly conflicted.

Luckily for me though, I didn’t have to make the decision – the creative team responsible for the commercial were very much behind keeping the original lyrics and in the end Bisquick was too. Whew!

[Ed.: Changing it to "bisquick" would've made for a horrible song, regardless of your stance on "selling out" -- "bis-qui-ick paa-aaaaaaaan-cakes" would've made it sound like Frances was hiccuping.]

What part of the process surprised you as somebody new to the television ad licensing game?
The TV ad agency people seem to move at superhuman speed. I was astounded at how quickly that commercial came together.

You seem to have had your music licensed to various folks quite a bit -- is that something you actively seek out, or is it mostly a passive experience on your part?
To be honest, it’s mostly been word of mouth. But it is something I hope to expand on – it’s a great way to get the music out there.

Do you make pancakes every weekend?
We do flip a lot of pancakes around here. My boys would have me make them every single morning if it were up to them…

Photo credit: Barb Uil (