Or: How a digital boy rediscovered mainstream

I have a new job. It’s my second week as Strategy Director at a major integrated agency in Berlin. This means I have left the sphere of digital agencies (for more than 7 years I worked purely in digital) and return to a rather traditional advertising agency model. A very good advertising firm, but definitely a place where digital marketing is not the primary ’output.’ As most other digital marketing guys I have turned into quite a niche geek over the last couple of years. Of course I am a technical early adopter. Of course I have beta invites to this red hot application a gazillion years before anybody else. Of course my Klout score is way beyond yours. And of course I have a clear opinion on what the future of Social CRM looks like. But guess what? There is a good chance I wouldn’t be able to answer the pop music $500 question as a ‘Who wants to be Millionaire’ candidate correctly.

Years ago I laughed about these typical quiz show candidates; male, usually in their mid fifties with a profound education in literature, history, or classical music. But beyond questions on Bach, Whitman or Churchill these candidates were usually challenged by questions I – back then – could answer rather easily. Like: “Which female singer started her career with the song Hit me baby one more time?” They simply were not able to answer this rather simple question as they were out of touch with mainstream pop culture.

There is a good chance I wouldn’t be able to answer the pop music $500 question as a ‘Who wants to be Millionaire’ candidate correctly

Recently I realized I might be suffering from a related problem: Nicheism – in a rather advanced state. Not terminal. But advanced definitely. As I am very interested in this online world that surrounds us, I was able to build a personalized feed infrastructure around me that fully supported all my personal and professional information needs. But unfortunately I absolutely have no opinion when it comes to Justin Bieber (well, you have to hate him, right?) or this TV show that everyone is watching. Why? Because I don’t watch TV anymore. And my personalized music streams gives me the chance to avoid the Justin Biebers of this world. They simply don’t exist on Planet Me.

That’s not necessarily bad. In fact many people would probably wish that Justin Bieber played no role in their world anymore. But besides being knowledgeable in my professional niche I think I have to get back in touch with a certain kind of informational mainstream. Yes, the world gets more and more individualized and personalized thanks to this great invention that the web is. Still, the majority of people in western civilizations is used to linear information structures like TV. Doubtless this is going to change. Doubtless the web will take over our lives and how we deal with information – be it entertainment, interaction or business. At the same time a very linear mainstream information pipeline is still what most people rely on. Without any personalized feeds, without music apps that recommend a niche artist based on previously-listened-to-tracks, and without aggregated twitter feeds.

a very linear mainstream information pipeline is still what most people rely on

Merging both worlds will be my challenge in the near future. Working for an integrated agency does not only mean to bring more web-thinking into a rather traditional agency model. It also means to bring more mainstream into the web. Integration here means I have to start with the man in the mirror first – allowing a bit of mainstream in my personalized, highly connected world. Welcome back Mainstream. I am looking forward to download buy a set of DVDs now. What can you recommend? I haven’t watched one episode of Lost, West Wing or Mad Men in my life.

But I will.