Karl Marx is said to have once remarked, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” In the history of Internet marketing we’ve clearly arrived at the farcical stage of the game.
Each time we’ve seen the same cycle repeat itself. The initial marketers jumping on a new technology operate in a gray area somewhere between public outrage and downright illegality. A backlash ensues in which every available avenue, such as blocking technology, legal challenges and community pressure, is used in an attempt to stamp out the offending marketing. And inevitably all such avenues fail. Instead over time the Internet community comes to tolerate the marketing. It becomes just a background nuisance. A cost of being online. Whereupon, almost magically, the previously deplored marketing technique becomes legitimate.
Of course, it’s inevitable that each new advertising technique, if it generates sales, will eventually become legitimate. We can castigate the marketers who first brought us these methods, but they’ve actually performed a service. If the advertising techniques they pioneered can generate sales, despite the annoyance and even enmity they engender among consumers, we know the techniques must be pretty effective. Perhaps it is cynical to say, but anything that effective simply cannot remain outlaw for long.