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  • Writer's pictureJason Burlin

Hack Your Competitors Ads Through Facebook Ads Library

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Wouldn’t it sound crazy if you had the option to see exactly what your competitors are advertising, how many ads they are running, when they are launching ads, what kind of ads they are and even estimate the amounts they are spending on their ads on Facebook and Instagram and even know what are their top-performing products?! 

In other words, you could pretty much access all the creative research and information you need aside from actually seeing their ads in the ads manager! Wouldn’t that be crazy helpful?  Well, that tool has been available for a long time and it’s called Facebook Ad Library! Facebook defines its ad library as the following: 

“The Ad Library is our most comprehensive ads transparency surface, providing a view of ads across our apps and services. It helps make advertising transparent by giving people more information about the ads they see. The Ad Library contains all active ads running across our products.” 

Ad Library was first introduced to create transparency in regards to political and social ads in which Facebook was blamed for contributing to fake news but it quickly became available to all advertisers. In my opinion, they took it one step too far. I don’t know of any other ad platform that exposes such valuable information about your ads. 

One of the ways that you keep yourself ahead of your competition is through your ability to reveal specific information about your ads while hiding valuable information that your competitors could benefit from. Yes, transparency is important in some ways, however, most businesses who advertise on Facebook have no idea that every single ad that is live is PUBLIC. Aside from the fact that it exposes you to your competitors, and even shows from which countries your page is managed from it also can open up possible issues with your customers. For example, if your prices are different in each region, or for different promo codes or offers based on geo-location and more. 

Granted that the average customer probably won’t go and check your ad library, but that’s still not information that you would probably want public. Now that we are done complaining about Ad library, let’s look at this AMAZING tool and how you can use it to hack into your competitors’ marketing campaigns, squeeze out all the juicy information and use it to your advantage. 

If you haven’t seen the Ad Library before, here is how it looks. 

There are two ways you can search for advertisers on Ad Library. The first option is to simply search for their name in the search bar.

Option two is to go to to their Facebook page and scroll down to where it says Page Transparency→ See More→ View Ad Library

As you can see, it shows you when the page was created, out of which countries/regions this page is managed from, and the confirmed page owner! That’s a lot of valuable research information before we even get into the ads. 

Once you get into their Ad Library the information you see is beyond extraordinary. Aside from seeing their ENTIRE live ads library, you gain access to massive amounts of information. Each ad shows when it was launched, on which platform it’s running and if it’s available in more variations. This is every creative director’s dream at their fingertips. But wait, it doesn’t end there. You can view which ads are running and filter by country, by platform or by impressions! Yet, that’s not everything!  Yes, getting access to their ads is beyond amazing but how do you know which of their ads are working best? Also, you don’t care about what worked well in the past, right? You wanna know what is working for them now! Ad Library lets you sort by the amount of impression an ad received as well as allowing you to filter for time frames. 

What else do you need? You see every single ad that your competitor is currently running. You can sort through the ads with the most impressions, track how often they launch new ads, get inspiration from their creatives, investigate on which platform they advertise most and get deep insights regarding their marketing strategies. Without any fancy 3rd party tools and without paying “Marketing Gurus”. This is 100% FREE. 

Here is how I utilize the Ad Library when I create and manage campaigns. 

1. Inspiration. 

As a marketer, Facebook Ad Library is my favorite library. I spend several hours every week getting inspiration about new creatives that I can create. I look at every brand that I come across. Direct competition, ads that appear in my feed, and, most importantly, I closely follow the biggest brands. I don’t follow big brands because I directly compete with them, but you can imagine the size of the creative team that works in Nike, Spotify, or Amazon. The greatest thing about Ad Library is the fact that the marketing campaigns of the big brands are completely exposed and available to everyone. Bigger brands tend to also be more focused on awareness campaigns that allow them to heavily invest in their creatives. The more creatives I am exposed to, the more inspiration I will get. 

2. Track their estimated ad spend

Facebook could have settled by showing you a sample of all the unique ads that a business is running without exposing the exact number, however, they decided to expose everything. Knowing how many ads an advertiser is running is golden information especially if they are a direct competitor. Also, you can estimate the amount of ad spend based on the number of ads the business is running. 

Yes, it’s not exact math and there isn’t a direct correlation between the number of ads and ad spend as every industry is different. For example, Nike only has 42 active ads, yet its advertising budget on Facebook is probably larger than 95% of advertisers. That being said, if you look at your direct competitors who rely heavily on ads to generate traffic, you can notice a general correlation between the number of ads and the amount of ad spend. If someone is running only 10 ads at a given moment, you can assume that he is not spending the same amount as someone who has 1000 ads running. There is no sense of using hundreds of different ads if you are spending very small amounts. Look at your ad library and your ad spend, then compare it to your direct competitors and estimate their spend based on that figure. If your direct competitors are running hundreds of ads and you are not, you are leaving a LOT of money on the table. 

3. Tracking down their current best sellers

Here comes the boom. If you read my previous posts, you know that my marketing approach is always product-focused. Show me your products, not your ads. You can bet your money that when a business has a top-performing ad that generates most of its spend, it’s because of the product that is shown in that ad. You can assume that the ads that have the most impressions also get most of the ad spend as advertising on Facebook is billed based on impressions. If businesses are spending a lot of money on their top ads it’s because these ads are generating the best results. You want to have access to this information in real-time as timing is everything. It’s not relevant if you don’t know if it’s a current best-seller right? Simply filter for impressions and the last 7 days to sort through your competitors’ top spending ads. 

And here you go. Here you can see Nike’s top-performing ad. I am guessing these shoes sell well. 

So there you have it. Creative inspiration, product research, and deep competitor research all in one place. No fancy tools, no secret Facebook groups, and no marketing gurus. Everything in one place, completely open to the public and 100% free. You can now send your research and development team on a vacation.

In Summary

Facebook created the Ad Library as a tool to provide transparency of social and political ads but it is an invaluable resource to gather information on the ads of your competitors. By accessing the Ad Library you are provided with a wealth of information on which ads are the best performers for your competitors, where they are advertising, how many versions of the ads they are running, and more. With that kind of insight, you are better placed to create ads that take on your competitors. All thanks to a free tool designed by Facebook…the Ad Library.

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Jason Burlin

A seasoned marketer with more than a decade of experience in online paid advertising. Managed more than $150M in ad spend and worked with more than 500+ brands. He is known as the unconventional marketer.

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