Collectible Card Games, Deck Building, and Digital Signage

Hundreds of Magic: The Gathering playing cards, scattered on a table

Have you, your kids, or your friends ever played a collectible card game? Magic, Pokemon, or more recently Hearthstone? It’s an expensive hobby. And the more you spend, the more your collection grows, making choosing the best cards from your collection, the ones that work together, a difficult task.

The same can be said of digital signage. You’ll have an ever increasing library of promotions to pull from, and it can become difficult to determine which ads you should be running.

Both come down to the art of deck building. In card games, it’s choosing which cards from your collection should be placed into your deck. In digital signage, it’s about building your deck of ads.


A competitive card deck is never just a collection of the most expensive, rare and powerful cards. Instead, decks are typically built to support a handful of cards that win you the game. The idea is that every card you have gets towards that single goal – building your way to playing the final card which wins the day. A deck of cards with too many ideas executes none of them well.

With digital signage, you have to have few, specific goals in mind and make sure you support that with every ad. If the goal is extending the amount of time people spend there, every ad should be entertaining. If it’s about solidifying your brand, every ad should feel cohesive with one another. Whatever your goals, if the ad doesn’t fit that message, remove it from the deck and replace it with something that does.

Deck Limits

In collectible card games, your deck has to meet a series of limitations. The deck can’t be too small, can’t be too large, and can’t contain too many of the same card. Veteran players know that the deck should be as small as is permitted. If you have one card in your deck that wins you the game, you want to increase your odds of drawing it by having as few of any other cards as possible.

In digital signage, it’s the same thing. Just because you have 60 one-minute ads doesn’t mean all of them are equally important. You need to stack the deck with the ads that have the most impact, and discard the rest. The ad you want to pop up on the screen next is the one that delivers the right message, and with a cluttered playlist of slides, it can take seemingly forever to appear.

Decide how many ads are in your ideal deck, then cull until you reach that number. Any new ad has to replace an old ad – keep to that lower limit so your message doesn’t get diluted.

Card players also know that some cards deserve to be repeated over and over in their deck, because they are simply more valuable with repetition. They come up more often, and reinforce each other when they appear together. With digital signage, it’s important to show some ads more often than others – pushing a specific hashtag or special more than any other. If your digital signage platform assumes that all ads are equal and plays them all in order, it’s time to change platforms.

Side Decks

Many competitive card games have rules allowing for you to have some additional cards in reserve, so you can swap cards in and out to respond to your opponent’s strategy. The side deck is full of cards that are situationally useful – only there in response to specific threats or problems, or to create unique opportunities that your opponent hasn’t prepared for.

In digital signage, you should be able to respond to the atmosphere of your location in real-time with a ‘side deck’ ready. Having some ads waiting in the wings, deploying them with precision, is making the best use of your signs. Get, and use the ability to launch a margarita special when the weather is sunny, a discount when the home team wins, or a welcome message when a huge group shows up.

Shuffling & Stacking

The core of every card game comes from a shuffled deck, with each player having no idea what card is coming next. It keeps the game exciting and makes for some interesting drama. In digital signage, you have the absolute control to stack the deck to your liking – but should you?

If your sign is something that people linger around – basically, if they’re sitting down to look at your screen – stacking the deck may be in your worst interest. As soon as your viewers discerns the pattern of your ads, and they figure out what’s going to happen next, you’ve lost their attention for good. Think about a DVD menu, that loops incessantly every 20 seconds – you’ve lost interest already, haven’t you?

If you shuffle your ads, and even you don’t know what’s going to show up next, then your viewers will always be kept guessing. The droning repetition and patterns get washed away, and people will keep looking at your screens to see what’s on now, and curious as to what’s on deck.


Here’s some actions you can take right now to build your ad deck like a card deck:

  • Theme your deck. Does this ad fit my goals? Ask that of every ad in your list right now. If you’re not sure of your goals, take the time to define them!
  • Set your deck limits. What are the most ads you’d ever want to run at once? The least? Cut your playlist down to these limits.
  • Adjust the frequency. Which ads deserve to be shown more often? Less often? If you can’t make some ads show up more often than others, consider if that’s important enough to switch digital signage providers.
  • Set up your side deck. What ads do you need to be able to whip out at the drop of a hat (or a sudden drop in temperature)? Are you prepared to handle the unexpected?
  • Shuffle – or stack. Decide if your digital signage implementation can withstand the monotony of a perfectly stacked, looping, predictable deck of ads. If not, take care to make it a little less predictable.
  • Grab someone who plays these card games. Explain this analogy to them, and let them take a crack at what your playlist should look like. It’s a challenging job, and they’ve been prepping for it – they might surprise you!

Disclosure: Tony Downey is a senior developer for Clickspace TV, a digital signage platform for the hospitality industry. All of ideas presented come from his time implementing them into the product. He would love it if you asked about how Clickspace TV can help your business!

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