The technology publishers relied upon to provide advertiser targeting in the last two decades wasn’t exactly intentional.

In fact, some of it was a hack of methods used for entirely different purposes.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, a leading digital advertising industry advisor says the industry should avoid sleepwalking into another 20 years of tech misalignment, by getting intentional about data strategy right now.

Porous foundations

“The third-party cookie that technically speaking was never really intended to carry on its back this really, really hundreds of billions of dollars a year heavy industry,” says Ana Milicevic of Sparrow Advisers.

“We’ve built a lot of really sophisticated technology on top of a relatively porous foundation.

“It’s time to revisit those foundations and make sure that they’re strong and rebuilt and set for the next 20 years.”

Disappearing identifiers

Sparrow Advisers uses its own principals and a network of global experts to advise brands, media companies and tech firms how to change course in the new media landscape.

Co-founder Milicevic is a former Adobe and SAS executive who once consulted for UNICEF on web and digital strategy.

But that’s in the past. Right now, Milicevic is concerned about the future, and how changes from software companies limit advertisers’ ability to use traditional digital identifiers to target audiences.

“We’re losing this component of addressability that we’ve had over the last 10-ish or so years of mobile advertising that made mobile advertising addressable,” she warns.

Build a foundation on data

So, what’s the answer? It’s about getting in place a viable strategy to gather first-party audience data.

“For a lot of publishers who have not invested in their own data strategies and their own data and technology stacks, this is going to come as a big, big challenge –  all of a sudden a significant portion of their audience is going to appear like it’s disappeared overnight,” Milicevic adds.

“My advice for publishers would be as usual, make sure you’re investing in a data strategy, make sure you understand who are the vendors that you’re working with, and if your data technology stack is really the data and technology stack that you need for today.

“We’ve seen in vendor evaluations that even decisions that were made two or three years ago … some of this technology is that old. The needs of the publisher or the brand have evolved pretty significantly and that the tech stack is just not matching up.”

Change is personal

Although the solution is in technology, its precursor is in people.

In other words, Milicevic is calling on publishers to staff up and staff correctly to ensure the right teams are in place that can deliver on a data strategy.

“We now have digital executives, purely digital executives stepping into these multi-channel marketer roles and really not being prepared to handle other types of channels effectively,” she worries.

“Most of these challenges that we’re seeing today manifest themselves as, ‘Hey, I need a go-to market strategy’, or, ‘Hey, I need you to help me with this particular type of positioning’.

“Really they are about change management.”