Can you imagine being able to know the advertising strategies of your competitors on Facebook? When starting from scratch, you may find yourself with many questions like

Do they use single image or carousel ads?
What kind of images do they choose?
Do they have videos?
How do they address their potential customers and formulate their advertising messages?
Do they write very short texts or do they write longer messages?


When you have to create new ads and you have the white pages syndrome, there is nothing better to find inspiration than to go and see what other advertisers are doing, either in the same industry or in a completely different market.

Did you know that since June 2018 it is possible to see the ads on a Facebook page even if you are not in the target audience?

In this article we will see how to know the advertising strategies on Facebook of your competitors, to improve your communication strategy.

First, we’ll focus on how to view other advertisers’ ads, and then learn how to use this data to improve your Facebook ad strategy. And finally, we will stop to discover why Facebook allows ads to be publicly available.

How can I see my competitors’ ads?

There is a solution for knowing the advertising strategies of your competitors on Facebook: The Facebook ad library.

Facebook ad library
Spying on SPY ads with the Facebook ad library

This is a library that lists the ads that are currently on all of the world’s Facebook pages.

Using this tool, you can see all the active ads on this page in all possible ad placements (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network).

You can also click on the ads to see which URLs these ads redirect users to.

However, you will not see the “social proof”, i.e. the engagement (like/comment/share) accumulated in these ads. You will not be able to interact with these ads either.

Of course, you will also not be able to find out what audience these ads are aimed at or the budget allocated to them. So you will not be able to use this tool to address the audience of your competitors. It’s not about copying; be creative my friend.

You will be able to know when an ad was launched, as all ads appearing for an advertiser are listed in order of the date they were first published.

Las estrategias de publicidad en Facebook de sus competidores
BMW ad in Facebook ad library

💡 You will only be able to see the active ads, that is, the ones that are currently running. Facebook does not provide an archive of all ads from an advertiser, except for political advertising (not available in Spain).

You can use this tool to view all the ads currently running in the Facebook group’s family of applications (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network), whether they are already being advertised or not, with or without a Facebook profile. So it is a very open and accessible tool for everyone.

To discover your competitors’ Facebook advertising strategies, you no longer need to visit their pages in the hope that your pixel will enter one of their campaigns…you have all the campaigns available, without having to waste time with poaching methods.

How can I improve my Facebook advertising strategy?

If you wanted to address the audience of your competitors, you will be disappointed because this new feature will not allow you to do so. You have many other options for creating your audiences, starting with similar audiences.

However, these resources can help you in different ways.

Be inspired by other advertisers’ ads

When you advertise on Facebook and Instagram, you cannot rely on just an image and text. First, to maximize the chances of finding creative content that works, you have to try several. Between images and texts you can try out hundreds of variations.

And once you find a content that works well, you can’t stop and forget it: after a while the target audience sees the same ad often, gets bored, and your results drop off… so you have to start this testing process again to find new content that works.

Even if you are a very creative person, it is difficult to find new ideas and new ways to talk about your product all the time without getting lost. So looking elsewhere for inspiration can be helpful.

Of course, I’m not just talking about taking inspiration from your competitors. Nothing prevents you from doing so, of course, but if you copy word for word a text from one of your competitors and address (most likely) the same audience, it is not good in terms of brand image and ethics.

On the other hand, if you discover an idea or a twist in an advertiser’s ad that is in a completely different market than yours, it won’t bother anyone if you take this idea on your own in one of your advertising campaigns on Facebook or Instagram.

Careful, I don’t advise you to blatantly plagiarize other advertisers! I’m talking about getting inspired, that is, intelligently copying certain ideas or elements from one or more ads by making them your own and adding your own magic. You must remain relevant to your audience and your goals.

Spying on your competitors’ advertising strategy

Now that we can see the Facebook ads of our competitors, we can decide the direction we want to give to our campaigns. We may choose to make advertisements similar to those of our competitor, or we may decide to go in the opposite direction to differentiate ourselves from them.

Here are several things we can learn from studying the competition’s ads:

What is your advertising objective? Even if Facebook does not explicitly show the campaign target of our competitor’s active ads, we can infer from the message of these ads that it has more of an awareness approach, an acquisition strategy, a campaign to retain its new customers, or focuses on conversion. Do they promote their content? ¿Do they do remarketing (or retargeting)?

What kind of tests do they perform? By having access to all the active ads of a competitor, we can know how many variations of the same ad they are running, i.e. better understand their A/B testing strategy. For the same ad, how many images? For the same text, how many titles? Etc.

Do they have a budget? Even if the number of active ads is not necessarily correlated with the amount of the advertising budget, the volume of the ads may give an indication of the efforts made by our competitor in the Facebook ad channel.

What product is being promoted? If your competitor sells several products, you can now see which one(s) they are marketing.

What advertisements have been circulating for a long time? If you see ads that have been running for several months, it is probably because these ads are generating good performance.

Finally, another important point: you will not have any information about whether these ads are generating a good return on investment or are failing completely. Of course, you will not be able to see the click rates of these ads, but neither will you see the reactions to these ads.

In general, ads that work well and have been working for a long time are ads that have accumulated many likes, comments and actions. And that is only visible to the advertiser… and to the people to whom those ads are addressed.

Why did Facebook decide to make the ads accessible to everyone?

You know, Facebook has been heavily criticized mainly for two cases:

The revelations of Russian interferencein the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and in the Brexit referendum in the UK. The case of Cambridge Analytica with more details here.

After these cases and Mark Zuckerberg’s hearings before US parliamentarians and Europe, Facebook announced that Pages and ads would be made more transparent, so that users would know better who is behind a Page and that ads bought by any Page would be visible to everyone.

This transparency effort was first applied to political advertising in the U.S., requiring confirmation of a political advertiser’s identity and geographic location. Facebook also announced that all political ads would be indexed in a large file, where you could see, in addition to the image and text, the amount spent and the audience these ads are targeting. This would allow journalists to study the political messages disseminated by parties, associations or pressure groups.

Where everyone was surprised was when Facebook quickly announced that all ads on any page, not just those of a political nature, would be accessible to everyone. On Facebook, everyone should be able to know which ads are being published on a page.

Conclusion

Apart from the fact that the tool is very useful for the reasons we have mentioned, I think it can help raise the quality of ads on Facebook and on Instagram, as an advertiser who misuses Facebook ads (cheating, counterfeiting, plagiarism, etc.) will be publicly exposed.

Keep in mind the fact that if you have access to all your competitors’ ads, they can also see all your ads.

Watching you

Facebook’s algorithm is increasingly powerful, leaving us free to work on the creative part of the ads. Those who will be original will always have an advantage. Don’t copy, be inspired.