There were rules, of course. You couldn't give away any old thing. The ideal free gift had to...
- Appeal to the target market
- Compliment the main offer
- Convey some kind of added value.
The problem is, when everybody is doing it, the value falls to zero. Especially when you consider the freebie is usually some kind of download. And all of us have downloaded something, only to find it months later when looking for stuff to delete.
I think most of us view free downloads as essentially being without value. And if that's the case, the freebie has no power to generate action. Which means it's no longer useful in lead generation on the web.