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Are Cards the Mobile Ad Format of the Future?

Cards—made popular by companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook—provide engaging experiences that often match the look and feel of a specific app. These bite-sized pieces of content represent much of what the mobile experience should be—native, (presumably) relevant, and easy to consume or act upon. They are usually incredibly effective in providing users with information and moving them around the mobile app ecosystem.

Cards are also an effective and engaging advertising format. With more time than ever being spent on mobile devices (especially in-app), some industry experts predict that cards will be a main propeller of mobile ad spend moving forward because of their digestible, action-oriented and native nature.

So, can we say that cards are the mobile ad format of the future? Yes, but matching the look of a mobile site or app is only one piece to the puzzle. It’s going to take a lot more than that to make a dent in the $65.8 billion in mobile ad spend that's projected by 2019.

In its current state, most mobile advertisements—cards and beyond—prioritize app downloads over engagement. The user suffers from this prioritization, as they are required to download countless applications to complete simple tasks. Think of all the times you’ve clicked on an ad or a link, and then were immediately prompted to download the app before moving forward or seeing the more specific information within the app you were looking for. While these apps are useful, in truth they are walled gardens of software that limit users to finite number of actions. Not to mention, most are never used again.

And what happens if a card was created and then the data within the app changes?Whether it’s the price of concert tickets going up, or reservation times for a local restaurant decreasing, most cards in the industry are not dynamic and quickly become outdated. No one wants to click on an ad for a sale, only to find out the offer is no longer valid.

In today’s mobile world, information can be calculated and displayed to users in real-time, when they need it. Shouldn’t mobile advertising reflect this on-demand mentality that consumers have grown accustomed to? Advertisers should be delivering a native, dynamic ad experience based on what users are trying to do in that exact moment, not just serving static ad flyers that quickly become outdated and require constant manual creation of new relevant ad banners.

The industry has been redundant for years about the importance of “connecting consumers to the right ads, in the right place, at the right time.” Cards, served dynamically with real-time relevancy, have the potential to take this concept to the future by actually capturing intent and helping users connect with what they need inside of mobile apps, when they need it the most. The industry is already making progress in reaching that point—providing advertisers with the tools necessary to drive app discoverability and engagement (not just installs). Deep linking is becoming more advanced by the day, and it will certainly be the foundation to delivering relevant, dynamic and native content to mobile users.

Deep linking capitalizes on app APIs and the potential for turning the app ecosystem into a more “open” technology platform, but it’s not enough to transform users’ app experience or re-engage dormant users with relevant apps.

The future of the mobile experience—and thus, the future of mobile advertising—will be about bringing app functionality to users contextually and proactively, not just bringing users to apps where they have to search for the right functions. Dynamic cards, because of their consumable nature, will be a game changer for the mobile ad industry moving forward, especially as deep linking and app mining technology becomes more advanced.