Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Guardian grants Illuma first-of-its-kind licence to categorise content for contextual ads

The Guardian has granted UK-based ad tech company Illuma a commercial licence to categorise article pages and match advertising with those pages. The agreement marks the first time that the newspaper brand has agreed a standalone commercial licence to use data from its site for contextual targeting purposes.

Rather than tracking and targeting individual people, contextual advertising aims to match up ads with relevant parts of a publisher’s website, without the use of personal data. 

However, at present, some ad tech solutions ‘scrape’ text and data from publisher websites (without the permission of the publisher) to create tools for contextual targeting. This unsanctioned scraping and tagging can result in inaccurate categorisation, plus lags and delays on publisher sites, leading to a poor experience for users and disappointing performance for advertisers. 

Speaking to New Digital Age (NDA) Peter Mason, CEO of Illuma, outlined how the new agreement marks a step forward for the industry: “Our technology uses machine learning to process information about what kind of contextual environments are delivering the best value in a campaign and eliminate some of the noise. Then, very quickly, it powers a contextual recommendation engine that allows you to scale a campaign while remaining highly relevant and performant. 

“We’re focused on delivering reactive contextual targeting that works for everyone involved: advertisers, consumers and publishers. Our agreement with The Guardian provides a clear legal framework around how we work together. If you’re a publisher, creating Intellectual Property that belongs to you, you should have control over who uses it and how they do it.” 

Katherine Le Ruez, director of commercial strategy and operations at The Guardian told NDA that the licensing arrangement provides more oversight for the publisher. She said: “From our point of view, we thought that an interesting approach to this would be to formalise access to our content API. Illuma now has an API key and we have a contract that states the purposes for which they can access that content, the fields they can use, and for what.” 

Richard Reeves, Managing Director, AOP, who made the initial introduction between Illuma and the Guardian, commented: “The new partnership is an excellent example of how the industry should approach data practices. This demonstrates that a collaborative approach, in which both sides benefit, can work for the greater good of a healthy digital media ecosystem and I hope to see more conversations like this with practitioners across the sector. In the meantime, we need advertisers, their agencies and our ‘industry standards’ bodies to continue to speak out against vendors that obtain contextual data without consent.”