Posted 08.03.2018 by stephen colbert
[Updated August 2018]
The new Facebook “Info and Ads” tab brings increased transparency to the platform, allowing users to easily view active ads and other info about other brands.
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.
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 money 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 There’s a reason unpublished newsfeed ads were affectionally called “dark posts.”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, 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. Yet.
The “Info and Ads” tab will show you a page’s active ads – even if you aren’t part of the target audiences – but that doesn’t mean it will show you every ad. If the page is running a large number of similar ads for numerous products, it’s possible that only a sample of these ads will be visible. There’s currently no way to distinguish whether you’re being shown all ads or just samples.
The ads shown also might not be representative of the layouts or formats being run. For example, if ads are being run on both Instagram and Facebook, you will likely only be shown the Facebook version.
You can usually access the page directly with the default URL, facebook.com/[PageName]/ads, but it can also be found under “Info and Ads” tab on the left side of the page. The tab is not optional and cannot be turned off by admins, so “Info and Ads” will be available for every page, even if it’s not actively running ads.
On the right side is a box displaying page information, including date the page was created and any historical name changes. In the center column, you’ll find all active ads, which can be sorted by regional targeting settings, if applicable.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and while every brand wants their ads 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 Info and Ads tab, 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, but there’s still a lot to learn from competitor ads, and thanks to the Info and Ads tab, 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 Info and Ads tab doesn’t reveal audience targeting details, 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.
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 strategy.
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