Posted 05.17.2019 by Josh Krakauer
[Updated May 2019] Facebook has quietly transitioned away from the “Info and Ads” tab to the “Ad Library”, a complete, searchable database bringing increased transparency to the platform and allowing users to easily view active ads from all Pages. The Ad Library is accessed under the Page Transparency section of your Facebook Page.
According to Facebook, the Ad Library is:
While the intent of the change is to give increased accountability surrounding Facebook’s political ads, there’s another clear benefit of the change – the new access is also a major boon to marketers conducting competitor research for their social media strategy
Here’s a quick video on how to access it:
In the past, finding the ads your competitors were running on Facebook wasn’t a straightforward process. Sure, you could go to their profile and scroll through their posts to get an idea of their overall social voice or organic posts, but there was no way to know what ads they were putting their social media budget behind unless you matched their target audience and had an ad show up in your own feed. There’s a reason unpublished newsfeed ads were affectionally called “dark posts.”
Thanks to the “Info and Ads” tab (previously) and the [new] Facebook Ad Library, you can easily find the Facebook ads being run by a competitor to gain better insight on how they’re marketing to their target audience and get inspiration from brands you admire. Take a look at the ads of content machine GoPro for some creative inspiration. This new transparency doesn’t extend to all targeting settings, though. Ads can be sorted by country (if applicable), but more granular geographic targeting, audience interests, demographics, ad spend, and other details aren’t available for all Pages. Yet.
The Ad Library will show you a page’s active ads – even if you aren’t part of the target audiences. The ads shown are representative of the layouts or formats being run. For example, if ads are being run on both Instagram Stories and Facebook, you can see both versions. It also shares the dates they started running. For political and issue advertisers, people can also view the locations where the ad was shown, the age and gender of the target audience, and a budget range.
You can visit the Ads Library directly at facebook.com/ads/library. You can also link directly to a page’s ads by visiting a brand’s page, navigating to “Page Transparency” and clicking on “view in Ad Library” inside of the “ads from this page” section. The transparency tab is not optional and cannot be turned off by admins.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and while every brand wants their paid media creative strategy to be unique and stand out, that doesn’t mean you can’t also find a spark of inspiration in the work of others.
Thanks to the Facebook Ads Library, it’s easier than ever to see more work from brands you admire to gain inspiration for your own work. You may not be able to see the actual targeting demographics, ad spend, or other nitty gritty details if they’re not a political advertiser, but there’s still a lot to learn from competitor ads, and thanks to the Ads Library, it was easy to come up with some great examples.
How are brands writing their copy? What’s the tone? Are they using a long-form story or keeping it short and sweet? Do they incorporate emojis or non-standard text formatting? In this example with Macy’s, we see two very similar ads with similar videos and identical headlines, but two different approaches to copy.
Variations in headlines can help angle content to different audiences, or simply serve as a test to determine what format works best. In this example with Hootsuite, we see two nearly identical ads with identical use of copy and image, but the headlines are different. One poses a question and plugs their free webinar, while the other presents it as a piece of content.
Images and videos are often the first thing thing someone sees, so strong imagery is what typically gets them to stop scrolling long enough to read the copy and creative. Variations in imagery can be used to target different use cases and audiences, or simply keep content looking fresh enough so people don’t simply scroll past a familiar image. The examples from Canva are identical ads except for the videos, which show a significant variation in color and approach.
Knowing what kind of deals other brands are offering is a great way to know what type of promotional offers are seeing positive results. Target is consistent in their messaging for a 5% discount with their REDcard, but vary the focus on the other features.
The Ads Library doesn’t reveal audience targeting details for all advertisers, but looking at ads themselves is often a great way to determine who the intended audience is. Sometimes it’s called out explicitly in the text, such as MailChimp referring to business owners by saying “your business,” Jobbatical’s reference to NodeJS developers, or App Academy‘s callout to software engineers at the top of their copy.
There’s another way to understand posts. In April 2019, Facebook began rolling out updated details to organic posts and ads to better understand why posts are showing up on your News Feed. The feature will show you more information about targeting.
Facebook has stopped showing ads in the Info and Ads tab, instead linking directly the Ad Library. The Facebook Ad Library is a free, searchable database providing access to all active ads running on all Facebook properties, including ads that may not have been visible to you previously.
Explaining the change, Facebook writes:
“Now the “Home” tab of every Page will include a “Page Transparency” section with the same Page information we’ve added to the Ad Library: the date the Page was created, previous Page merges, name changes, and primary country location for certain Pages. People previously had to click “Info and Ads” to find this information.”
Facebook believes their new feature will increase transparency, and other platforms have followed suit. Today, you can also view Twitter’s Ad Transparency Center to find examples of advertisers running “promoted-only” tweets. So go ahead, start creeping on your favorite brands. Get inspired to start testing elements for your own paid campaigns, and let us know what you learned. As always, reach out if you have unanswered questions about managing your own social media marketing strategy.
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When you publish a post that starts building great organic engagement, amplifying your reach to more people becomes the next goal. And this is where Facebook ads come in.