The Facebook Ad Library is a must-have resource for competitor research and creative inspiration. As advertisers and marketers, we can use the Facebook Ad Library as a legal trojan horse to see behind the scenes of the advertising strategies that our competitors are using.
What is the Facebook Ad Library?
Before getting our hands too dirty, it is good to understand the history of where the Facebook Ad Library came from. Initially, Facebook (Now Meta) created the Ad Library in 2019 as a transparency tool in response to the Facebook political ad scandal.
With transparency as the main concern, the Facebook Ad Library allows users to see every ad that is currently running across Facebook’s Advertising Network. Since its launch, it has allowed everyone from researchers to journalist and governments to see what information is being spread with political ads having a 7-year archive.
Although built for the purpose of political transparency, the Facebook Ad Library has evolved and is now one of the most useful tools to keep track of your competitors while staying on-top of market trends. This complete 2022 guide to Facebook Ad Library is the most comprehensive guide into how you can use the Ad Library to dominate your competition.
How do I use Facebook Ad Library?
On the surface using the Ad Library is quite simple, but most people do not use the Ad Library to its full potential. This tutorial will touch on not only how to use Ad Library as a utility, but how to use the data to gain valuable insights into what is working for your competitors.
1. Open Facebook Ad Library
Pro Tip: We recommend that you are logged in to Facebook. Although ad library can be accessed without logging in, you will not be able to see ads targeted to audiences 18+ and can also run into some search limitations. Also, if you are using an Ad Blocker, you need to disable your ad blocker prior to making a search.
2. Select Country and Category
Before searching for ads, you need to pre-define your search. First, you can choose to search for ads in a specific, singular country. This can be helpful if you have a product or service that changes based on location. Then you can limit your search based on ad category. If your search is limited to the USA your options are All Ads, Issues Elections or Politics, Housing, Employment or Credit. Any other country filter will only display the first two listed.
In order to get the most ad results, choose Country: All, Ad Category: All Ads
3. Search a Brand or Keyword
You can search the Facebook Ad Library using 2 different strategies. The first option is more focused on competitor research by searching a specific brand/company name. This will load a dropdown list where you can select the exact brand. After clicking on the brand, this will show you every ad that company is running under that account. The main limitation to this approach is larger brands will sometimes have different ad accounts for each geographical market - for example, if I search Pepsi, there are separate pages for Pepsi US, PepsiArabia, PepsiBrasil etc.
If you are using the Facebook Ad Library to find new ad inspiration more broadly, you can simply type in a keyword that aligns with the product or service you are trying to market. For example, if we were creating a new campaign for Vessi Shoes, we could search “waterproof shoes” to discover how all the brands that are selling this product are approaching this market.
Pro Tip: As of January 19, 2019, Ad Library introduced a new feature called “Exact Phrase Search”. To use it, place quotes around search terms to see results containing the same group of words in the same order.
4. Filtering your Ad Library Search
As of 2022, Facebook has added some extensive filtering features to the Facebook Ad Library. The benefit to using filters is to properly segment the data you are viewing. With filters you can clearly see when your competitors are choosing to run ads, the platforms they are using, and the styles of creatives they are producing.
Available Facebook Ad Library Filters:
Access the pop-up window by clicking the "Filter" button.
Filtering your search results is how you can really find the gems of Facebook Ad Inspiration. I have listed the available filters starting with what should provide the highest value.
Active Status: Active status will show you ads that are currently being displayed to users. It is important to note that Facebook Ad Library does not show all Inactive Ads forever, if you would like to save an ad forever, consider using a tool like Foreplay.co to Save Ads from Facebook Ad Library.
Impressions by Date: Using impressions you can see when an ad was running and use that information to infer how successful the ad was. For example, if today’s date is Feb 1, 2022 and I created a filter for On or before: Nov 1, 2021 the search results will only display ads that started running 3 months ago. If I pair this filter with the Active Status: Active, I will be seeing ads that have been running actively for 3 months, meaning the ad is working or the brand is okay with burning money.
Media Type: Media type allows you to display ads by the ad creative style. Luckily this year Facebook has added some exciting new media types for us to filter by.
- Images - images with little or no text
- Memes - images with text: "waterproof...”
- Images and Memes - this combines the first 2 filter options together.
- Videos - display videos where your keyword is contained within video transcript or ad copy: "waterproof...”
- No image or video - ads that are only text posts. This style of ad is very un-common.
Advertiser: The advertiser dropdown will only show when you are running a keyword search. Use this multi-select filter to display ads from only a few specific advertisers.
Platform: Facebook has multiple different platforms to display ads. This multi-select filter allows you to narrow down your search by All platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger.
Language: Simply filter by language - ads that contain more than one language will not appear in results when this filter is applied.
5. Analyzing Ad Creatives
Once you have narrowed your search to find some impactful Facebook advertising inspiration it is important to draw some insights and conclusions from your findings. Here is a little cheat sheet we have created to properly answer your questions as a marketer using Facebook Ad Library data.
Q: Is this ad performing?
A: Look at the “Started Running” date. If the ad has been actively running for a decent amount of time, you can assume it is profitable or at least hitting the metrics that brand requires.
Q: Where are they running this ad?
A: By looking at the “Platforms” list you can see where they are running the ad. This can give you insights into not only the format of the ad but the potential audience that the advertiser is trying to target.
Q: Did they selecting Manual or Automatic Placements?
A: If you see a note about 'Multiple versions' it means that the ad is using Dynamic features. Multiple formats, visuals, copy, or dynamic ads are being used. If it’s missing, it’s not dynamic.
Q: Who is the ad targeting?
A: Most brands use UTM parameters to better track their advertising performance. Although not required, if you find a UTM parameter at the end of a link, it can tell you some additional information about the ad set or audience being targeted. For example, if you see something like utm_campaign=mof-retargeting you could assume this a retargeting ad that is MOF or “Middle of Funnel”. Some other keywords to look for would be TOF (Top of Funnel), BOF (Bottom of Funnel) etc.
6. Save Facebook Ad Inspiration
One of the main limitations to the Facebook Ad Library is that ads are not available to view forever. If you are using Ad Library as an inspiration tool, it is important to save, organize and share ad inspiration forever without links expiring.
Using a tool like Foreplay.co will supercharge what you can do with the Facebook Ad Library.
How to use Foreplay
- Download the Chrome Extension - This will add a “Save to Foreplay” button directly inside Facebook Ad Library.
- Create a Foreplay Account
- Create a Board - Boards are used to organize ads by client, or ad style.
- Save Ads - Simply choose a board and save the ad forever.
- Share a Board - Click “Share” and get a public URL copied to your clip board to share with anyone.
Becoming a Facebook Ad Library Master
As you progress as a marketer it is important to not only know of the tools that can supercharge your performance but when and how to use them. Here is a summary of the top use cases for the Facebook Ad Library.
Top-Tier Facebook Ad Inspiration
The moment you are feeling stuck, looking at unsightly ad performance or trying to brainstorm content production, tab over to the Facebook Ad Library for a quick jolt of creative inspiration. We should all feel lucky to have access to the ability to see how the top brands in the world are using Facebook Ads to attract customers and clients.
Create a Swipe-File
In simple terms, a Swipe File is a digital or physical folder where you keep all the fantastic marketing ideas you've encountered over the years. If you are spending time researching ads, make sure you can recall your findings in the future. You can use tools like google drive or dropbox to create this or a purpose build tool like foreplay.co to save your genius findings easily.
Ride the Advertising Trend Waves
If you see a specific ad style, format, or creative popping up across multiple brands or industries it is likely you have spotted a trend. Although we should avoid chasing trends, it is can be tremendously valuable to act fast and strike while the iron is hot. Trends come and go, but that is only a negative if you are waiting too long to act on them.
Simply put, if you are using Facebook ads and not using the Facebook Ad Library you are leaving inspiration, insight and most importantly money on the table. On its own, Facebook Ad Library is like having your finger on the pulse of today’s advertising trends. Paired with a tool like foreplay.co will enable you quickly turn your insights into action for your internal marketing team or agency.