What happens when you send us an over-engineered piece of junk mail? We put it on the blog of course.Favorited Favorite 0
Today's blog features a closer look at a piece of spam mail sent to Nathan a few months ago. But this ain't your mother's spam mail - they really went all out with this one. First of all, the mail felt really heavy, unnaturally so. Upon opening, the package contained a video mailer playing a minute-long ad from GrowTeam, a marketing company we've never contacted nor dealt with.
We figured we might as well take this thing apart and see what's up with it. We found little metal pieces in the bigger envelope to give heft to it, but didn't relate to any actual content. However, what was inside was even more interesting - a video mailer.
This is a full video player, fit with a screen and speaker, that played this company's commercial immediately upon opening it. Stock footage of people dressed in business professional walking in and out of offices with inspirational orchestral swells in the background and a voiceover with the company's elevator pitch. We tore open the packaging to look at the hardware, and here's what we found:
We'd never seen this type of mail before, and it seemed odd to us that a company would send out something equivalent to junk mail that was so expensive, wasteful and bothersome to whoever opened it. So we did some further research.
Turns out, video mailer marketing is a thing, and sending one out can cost you around $24. There are companies that manufacture these, letting you customize it as you wish but working off the same template.
One of the companies we found in our research is called Marc, and we were particularly interested in them because of their claims about their analytics. Their website states that they can tell customers how many times their mailers have been opened, which means there's something in the mailer transmitting data back to them (if they're telling the truth). Kind of creepy, especially since you have no idea if the data collection truly stops there.
We were wondering what technology the mailer used to do this, so we tore it apart. Here's what the inside looked like uncovered:
The hardware list is pretty standard at first: buttons behind the playback controls, battery and micro-usb port to re-charge, speaker for the audio. However, when getting to the controls, things got more interesting. the main board contains a 2GB NAND flash chip from SK Hynix. Driving the media playback was the Actions ATJ229R1 media player chip. Here's the datasheet for that one if anyone's interested. We didn't find anything transmitting data, which means GrowTeam probably got this mailer from a different company that sends video mailers (there's many of them!).
We were glad about that, but looking into this world of video mailers raised a lot of questions for us. The data transmission aspect is concerning for anyone conscious of data privacy or worried about OTA hacks of any kind. The design and price seems over-engineered and wasteful, especially for junk mail.
Are video mailers popular, and do people actually respond to them? Is grabbing attention enough, as they clearly did with us? Is the age of email promotions coming to an end due to oversaturation, and am I going to end up drowing in a mountain of video mailers instead of 60,000 unread emails in my promotions inbox? Who's to say!
We want to know what you think! Have you ever received a video mailer? What was your reaction to it? What did you do with it?