Many of the most popular items on YouTube today are not music videos, or viral videos of dancing cats, or even Donald Trump doing his karaoke version of “My Way.” Last year Americans watched over 60 million hours of videos of “unboxers,” people who take new products out of their original boxes and show them, in detail, to the ever-increasing audience of eyeballs focused on their glowing screens.
Why would anyone want to spend hours watching someone else unwrap a new iPhone, or a Disney princess, or a Kinder chocolate egg surprise? People who have become subscribers to the many channels of unboxers describe the experience as “hypnotic.” “My roommate accused me of watching toy porn,” says one avid viewer. “But he locks his door and watches the real thing, so how bad can it be to want to see what the latest collectible Star Wars figurines look like? I know I’m never going to be able to own all these myself, but at least I can see exactly what it would be like to open one up and play with it. And the truth is, even if I did get one, I probably wouldn’t open the box, because that would destroy its collectible value. So, in a way, watching someone else opening one is even more exciting than having my own.”
The unboxing video phenomenon apparently started in 2006 when someone made a video of themselves opening up a new Nokia cell phone. Since then, one of the most popular genres of unboxing involves opening up the latest, and most desired, hi-tech gear. The companies who manufacture electronic gear quickly realized the promotional value of these videos and began to make their own, as well as provide free merchandise to the best known unboxers to help promote new products. Some of the videos have become so popular that many unboxers are able to make a living just by unwrapping new products. The more products they unwrap successfully, the more companies send them new products to unwrap.
But the phenomenon is not limited to hi-tech or sci-fi nerds. One of the most popular unboxers is Evan of EvanTubeHD, who recently turned 10. Target has hired him to create videos of favorite toys, which run on the company’s website and help promote its online wish list app. Last year the toy company Spin Master hired Evan to do a TV commercial for its Spy Gear toys, as well as YouTube videos. They believe that a 65 percent increase in sales since then is largely due to Evan’s unique unboxing talents. As a result, this year they are creating an animated online series that revolves around Evan and his sister.
The unboxing fad has swept into many other product categories. There are unboxing videos for cars, video games, and lingerie, as well as blenders, coffee machines, sneakers and even live reptiles. It won’t be long before almost anything you can buy will have a video about what it would be like to take it home and unwrap it. In 2014, the number one channel on YouTube was DisneyCollectorBR, which made between 6 and 12 million dollars for its creator by showing an unending diet of her hands carefully unwrapping boxes of toys, while she describes them in exquisite detail to the camera. Two other unboxing channels ranked in the top ten, earning their creators between 1 and 3 million dollars each.
I wonder if it’s too late to get on this gravy train. I searched, but I couldn’t find any unboxing videos for plumbing supplies, yet. I could corner the market on opening up new sinks, bathtubs, and toilet bowls. Will I make a million on a video showing the latest in urinal technology? Who’s to say? Nobody thought that dancing cats would become a franchise, either.
Perhaps I could make videos of myself unwrapping wrapping paper? Just the kind of meta concept that might appeal to a generation raised on sarcasm.
I think my best chance might be to create a video service that offers to make free videos of kids’ birthday parties, if you give me the right to film and post your kid opening up his presents. The channel, “Birthday Surprises,” would be an endless stream of excited, screaming children amped up on cake and ice cream, tearing open ribbons and wrapping paper, and oohing and aahing at all the amazing contents.
Or how about a channel devoted to what really happens when you try to unbox most toys and electronics? The damn packaging is so hard to open that you wind up slashing yourself with a knife or the hard plastic of the package just trying to get the goodies out of the box. This would be a channel for people who love guts and gore. As a bonus, I could create an entire follow-up channel of people unwrapping their bandages after their wounds finally healed.