Nothing Compares

Helpful tips from advertising legends
Image: Anubhav Sethi

At the grand old age of nineteen, Prince recorded his first album ‘For You’. Its placing in the US charts wasn’t particularly impressive but what does make you sit up and pay attention are the words printed below the track listing on the album’s back cover.

For You was ‘written, arranged, performed and produced’ entirely by Prince. And don’t be fooled into thinking the album is just a simple acoustic affair. He plays guitar (electric, acoustic and bass), piano, percussion and drums. In total, he used over twenty-seven instruments.

It may not have been the commercial success he hoped for but the virtuoso only had to wait until his next album for all that to change. One of the reasons – and with Prince there are many – he became such a successful musician was his knowledge of not just one particular part of the music process but his awareness and complete understanding of every single component.

He knew the strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of everything – from every key on a piano to every knob on a mixing desk. By having an innate awareness of how it all worked, Prince was able to create some of the greatest tunes in popular music.

When I think of the most gifted people I’ve worked with in advertising, they’re not just proficient at their own role, they’re pretty good at everyone else’s too. I’ve seen an Account Handler transform an endline by adding a word. A Creative change the outcome of a pitch by tweaking a Planner’s proposition. And a Planner give such inspired creative direction, they turned a half-decent thought into an award-winning idea. The best are the best because they have an insatiable desire to understand not just their own role but all of the roles within the ad-making process.

With a rounded knowledge of all disciplines, you’re better equipped to know if an idea answers the core problem. And as well as being hugely beneficial to help create the work, it also helps defend it too.

Creatives in the past have been famous for taking a back seat when it comes to certain parts of the process, only interested in the idea. But if we all acquired a deeper understanding of the roles involved, the brand and client concerns, we’d be far better prepared to overcome any obstacles and achieve something we all strive for – jaw-droppingly good work.

No live clips featuring ‘For You’ songs, so here’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ from his follow up album ‘Prince’ ’82.

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