Businessweek Investigation Sheds Light On Giant Market For Fake Web Traffic

A first-hand look at the ecosystem swirling around bot traffic.


Just ahead of Advertising Week in New York, Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story takes a first-hand look at the market for fake digital traffic across the Web.

It’s a juicy story worth reading, with details about why the advertiser’s dream of being able to buy highly relevant traffic at scale on the Web hasn’t necessarily panned out the way most hoped.

In one recounting, a veteran brand marketer shares the reaction to hearing that digital’s return on investment for a 2013 Heineken USA campaign was just 2 to 1 compared to at least 6 to 1 for TV:

“The room basically stopped,” Amram recalls. The team was concerned about their jobs; someone asked, “Can they do that? Is it legal?” But mostly it was disbelief and outrage. “It was like we’d been throwing our money to the mob,” Amram says. “As an advertiser we were paying for eyeballs and thought that we were buying views. But in the digital world, you’re just paying for the ad to be served, and there’s no guarantee who will see it, or whether a human will see it at all.

With the rise of ad blockers and ongoing news stories about ad fraud, the industry is facing a heightening crisis of confidence. It will be the topic of many conversations next week. The Bloomberg Businessweek story is online now and hits newsstands Friday.

(Some images used under license from


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