Interstellar Digital Marketing

How to Research Your Competitors' Facebook Ads

Keeping a close eye on your competition helps you better understand the marketplace, identify new opportunities and ultimately, allows you to not only stay current, but a step ahead. There are numerous ways to conduct this research—good o'l’ fashioned manual searching and browsing, following their social media channels, signing up for their newsletter, using online monitoring software like Mention, and using a digital research tool like SpyFu. As of March, there’s another great tool you can use for competitor research—Facebook Ad Library.

Let’s explore what Facebook Ad Library is, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Why Did Facebook Create the Ad Library?

Facebook created the Ad Library in March of 2019. This move occurred after the 2016 presidential election showed it was possible to take advantage of Facebook ads for political gain. An archive of critical political ads or other ads of national importance has existed in the Facebook Ad Library since May 2018.

Now, Facebook is expanding this library to include not just political ads, but every active advertisement available on Facebook. Having a searchable, comprehensive database of Facebook's active advertisements increases transparency. You do not have to be in the advertisement's target audience to view it.

What Information does the Ad Library Show?

The Facebook Ad Library provides transparency on page information and history in addition to revealing ad creative. Page information includes:

  • Page History - when the page was created, if the page has changed names, and if the page has been merged with other pages. This information can be useful in determining the validity and credibility of a page (e.g., if the page name has changed drastically or two totally different pages were merged, something fishy may have occurred)

  • People Who Manage the Page - this is a bit misleading, as it doesn’t actually show people but rather the primary countries in which people that manage the page live. If the the countries don’t match the actual location of the brand, that could be a red flag.

For ad information, it shows the approximate total number of ads run since the Library launched in March, and all of those individual ads.

Facebook Ad Library - Overview.png

Ads are grouped by launch date, and include the status, date started, if the ad has multiple versions, and copy and imagery for all versions. Ads can be filtered by country, and it also shows similar regional ads.

Facebook Ad Library - Ad Details.png

Pages and their ads are searchable by name, and Facebook attempts to autofill search suggestions.

How Can This Information Be Used to Inform Marketing? 

Having access to your competitor's ads is invaluable. There are several techniques for using data collected from the Facebook Ad Library. First, you can gather competitor's advertisements that you like in a swipe file. Take screenshots of desired ads and manage them using Evernote, Airtable, or Google Sheets.

When you are brainstorming your advertisements, pull out your swipe file for more ideas. Look for details in the ads that provide insights into their targeting, offering and tone. Are they only showing images of women? Do they use product photos or lifestyle? What types of promotions or offers do they use? Are using a formal tone or do they get fun and friendly? These details and trends can help you understand what audience they’re focusing on, why types of discounts they offer and how they’re connecting with consumers. You may decide to replicate some approaches, or go the opposite way and find your differentiators.

Also check to see how long each ad ran for, and which ads are consistently used month over month. If an ad only ran for a short time, it’s likely that it wasn’t performing well and they decided to pause it. What details about that ad could have caused it to not perform? Learn from their testing so you can don’t have to spend budget testing yourself!

Facebook Ad Library is a useful (and free!) tool for learning more about your competition and optimizing your own Facebook ads and budget. It requires some time to review and evaluate their ads, but the insights and improvements to your own campaigns can be well worth the effort!