Following the huge critical and commercial success of Sign ‘O’ the Times, Prince was due to release his next album in the winter of 1987. Completely black in colour, without a title, or even the artist’s name, about 100 promotional copies were sent out before its imminent worldwide release. But the thing is, it never made it that far. The legendary Black Album went on to become one of the most sought after bootlegs in history.
Many stories exist about why he pulled it, with the most popular being The Purple One had begun to believe the album’s dark content was evil. So, the eight songs and the months and months of effort he and his bandmembers’ put into it, were scrapped and confined to his infamous music vault. Never one to rest on his laurels, Prince went straight back into his studio and began working on a completely new album.
How many of us in advertising would have the balls to do that?
Pitches, launch campaigns, rebrands. Our jobs require a monumental amount of effort from a large group of people. And as guardians of the creative output, it’s our responsibility to ensure it all adds up to the right answer. But somewhere along the journey, cracks can appear. The strategy may be more suited to a slightly older audience, or a similar idea may exist in the marketplace, or the big platform simply hasn’t got the legs you at first hoped for. Some flaws are fixable but it’s how you deal with the ones that aren’t that matters.
The greatest agencies are also the bravest. No matter how painful it may be to stop and start again, the best amongst us have the fortitude to settle for nothing less than brilliant – regardless of the cost.
This approach may be difficult, demoralising and utterly exhausting. But in a job where you put so much effort into a campaign, why would you want it to be anything but brilliant.
I know I’ve had instances where I’ve let a nagging doubt go, only for it come back and bite me firmly on the arse. Starting again can be heartbreaking but spending months on something, only to see it turn out average, is far more upsetting.
Bob George, from The Black Album