Internet marketing has found a safe haven on click-to-pay sites where participants earn virtual currency in exchange of clicking on ads and generating revenue for companies that place ads in strategic places on webpages. The more people click, the more revenue the company gets.
This being said, the next step to this practice is to give it a practicality so that the participants do not feel as if they are being solicited by strangers, or bullied into purchasing something that they do not need. Hence, some companies have gone quite far to build the participation that they need to obtain revenue. One of these practices is that of disguising a visit to a website or the purchase of a product, as a
- case study
- evaluation, or
Hence, the lure of being a "participant" in a project that is supposed to make your time or money purposeful is what drives many unknowing individuals to carry on and participate in programs, games, or purchases that will keep them fixed on that one website, or that one company, and then never let go.
As a practice it is not illegal but it is unethical in that it does not disclose to the participants up front what the virtual currency may actually be worth, nor what the true intention of promoting the case study really is. Hence, the participant does not have all of the facts needed to make a truly informed decision.
What can we learn from the piece? We can learn that Internet marketing is omnipresent and, perhaps, omniscient. Web bots, phishing, breadcrumbs, trackers, everything unthinkable is currently lurking online trying to get you to do something or buy something to benefit someone else. It is literally out of the control of even the most sophisticated software programs. In the end, it is the individual who needs to take the responsibility of researching prior to clicking or accepting anything at all in exchange for something else. Nothing is guaranteed online and anonymity makes a daft company even more bold. We have and must always be careful.