What is a Swipe File? Examples & Best Practices

Zachary Murray

Creating effective marketing campaigns can take a lot of work, especially if you’re running low on ideas. Fortunately, there are many ways to get out of a creative block, and making your own swipe file is one of them. You can take inspiration from your competitors and brainstorm project ideas in no time.

mystical representation of a swipe file

Swipe files can come in various forms depending on the type of research you’re conducting. For example, if you’re researching TikTok ads, you’ll need to collate ads from the platform. Tools like Foreplay allow you to save online ads so you can easily add them to your swipe files, for review at a later time.

Now, it’s time to discuss the foundations of a swipe file and how to create your own swipe file overtime to supercharge your marketing, advertising and writing skills. 

What Is A Swipe File?

A swipe file is a collection of marketing ideas or examples to use as inspiration, you obtain these through online competitor research. Swipe Files can include all tyle types of multi-media content, such as:

  • Images/Screenshots
  • Social Media Videos
  • Landing Pages
  • Sales Pages
  • Facebook / Instagram Ads
  • Email Design / Email Subject Lines
  • Banner Ads

You can have multiple swipe files, with each one targeting a specific subject or marketin modality. For example, you can have one dedicated to researching the best Instagram Ads for small businesses, or a collection of your competitors Facebook ads you found in Facebook Ad Library. Simply capture the media you are inspired by and organize them into folders or tags. 

Many marketers also tend to note down their thoughts so they can remember why they included certain content. A swipe file should act as a source of inspiration as well as a place for collating your research material.

There are many tools that you can use to build your swipe file. For instance, Foreplay enables users to save ads from Facebook Ad Library and TikTok Creative Center with one click, organize them into boards and tag them by niche or client/campaign, share them with team members. Foreplay also lets you access a large community-curated ad library with over 200,000 ads and an AI search function so you can see ads other marketers are saving to their swipe file. 

screenshot of the foreplay app discovery tab
Foreplay's ad discovery platform

Foreplay streamlines the creative process, reducing the time and effort required to search for and find inspiration, from DTC brands to Marketing Agencies and CMO’s the platform helps users develop and manage effective ad campaigns.

The History of Swipe Files

Creating a swipe file has been around for a long time, and its history can be traced back to the early days of advertising (even before Mad Men). Starting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertising was a rapidly growing industry, and many companies were experimenting with different techniques to promote their products. 

Advertisers would often collect examples of successful ads and use them as inspiration for their own campaigns. They would clip ads from magazines, newspapers, and other publications and store them in a file for future reference.

Why Are Swipe Files Important?

It Provides Inspiration When You Are Short On Ideas

We have all been there, crippled with writers block needing to come up with a new ad idea. Swipe files allow you to scour through various marketing examples for inspiration when brainstorming your own ideas. It can help you break through a creative block and provide a fresh perspective. 

Understand The Basic Principles Behind Good Copy & Visuals

Swipe files can help you understand the basics that make up effective marketing. For example, you can download and save TikTok video ads you find appealing and place them into your swipe file. Having all those ads in one place makes it easier for you to deduce similarities between them and what makes them successful.

You can analyze the ads’ visuals and their copywriting to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Then, when it comes to creating your own ads, you’ll have a better sense of direction.

Keep Tabs On Competitors

Swipe files allow you to research and monitor your competitors’ marketing campaigns. For example, you can spy on your competitors’ Facebook ads to see what strategies they’re deploying and how effective they are. If they’re utilizing new tactics that seem to be performing well, you can think about emulating that in some way in your own marketing.

Examples Of Swipe File Tools


screenshot of the foreplay library tab
Foreplay Swipe File Builder

Foreplay lets you to save ads from TikTok, Facebook, and more using the Chrome extension. You can also collect all your saved ads into a swipe file using their boards feature. Sort your boards by campaign or client, add custom tags, and share them with your team using links.


Dribbble website homepage screenshot
Dribble Homepage

Dribbble is a portfolio site, which allows you to create custom web pages. You can upload images and arrange them as you please, as well as add sections of text. Others on the platform can give you feedback, like images, and save them. You can do the same to other swipe files.


Pinterest marketing screenshot
Using Pinterest as a swipe file

Pinterest is a visual platform where users can upload images and videos as ‘pins’. You can create custom boards and add pins to them in order to collect ideas. Pins can also include hyperlinks, so you remember where the images originated from. You can name your boards, rearrange pins, and share them using links.

How to Create a Swipe File

Step 1: Identify What To Keep In Your Swipe File

Firstly, you must decide what type of content you actually want in your swipe file, although this might be dependent on the marketing role you possess. It helps to have a specific research topic in mind. For example, if you want to research Facebook ads for e-commerce businesses, the type of content you’re looking for is Facebook ads — specifically ones selling e-commerce products.

Facebook ads are usually in video or image form, so you should aim to include those in your swipe file. You can also choose a specific area to focus on, such as effective CTAs or video thumbnails.

Some other example swipe file topics you can cover include:

  • Ad Visuals
  • Popular Trends
  • Headlines/Titles
  • Infographics
  • Subject Line
  • Pop ups
  • Social Media Posts

Try to focus on topics that are most relevant to your marketing campaign or company. You should aim to include examples that are similar to what you’re actually trying to achieve. Identify what goals you’re trying to reach with your swipe file and use them to decide on a topic/focus:

  • Do you want to research competitors?
  • Are you just looking for new ideas or inspiration?
  • Do you want to research marketing trends?

Step 2: Find Resources To Build Your Swipe File

Now it’s time to actually get content for your swipe file. There are several ways to do this, depending on the topic of your research. If you’re researching your competitors, visit their websites or social profiles. Brands often use platforms like TikTok to post their ads or UGC (user-generated content).

If you’re researching a well-known company, such as Adidas, you can just google search their ads. Results should pop up in google images. You can also look at websites specializing in collating ads, such as Ads Of The World.

Research Other Swipe Files

You can also look into existing swipe files and look through their content for anything useful. Look for ones that share the same area of focus as you.

Here are some example swipe files you can use:

Some swipe files include details about each piece of content, such as their pros and cons. You can get an idea of how to annotate your own file based on these examples. You can also look at how images and text are arranged and emulate the layouts you find most appealing.

Save Ads to Use as Inspiration

Luckily for us, the two largest social media marketing websites in the world, TikTok and Facebook have transparency tools that allow us marketers to find winning ad inspiration to add to our swipe file. 

To find Facebook and Instagram ad inspiration you should check out the FB Ad Library and if you are more interested in building a TikTok ad swipe file, check out the TikTok Creative Center, specifically the top ads tab. 

TikTok creative centre screenshot
TikTok Creative Center

Just remember to turn off your ad blocker before you start researching, otherwise, most ads will fail to appear on these platforms. When coming across ads, take into account the reason they’re being shown to you. Most ads are targeted at certain users based on their online activity. This can help you understand how marketing campaigns function on different platforms.

Step 3: Choose The Right Swipe File Tool

Unlike "the good ol days" where copywriters would keep their inspiration in a physical folder, in 2023 and beyond you can use specialized tools to help you gather material more efficiently. To create marketing specific swipe files, we recommend using a platform such as Foreplay.

You can use Foreplay’s swipe builder to save ad inspiration with a single click. Your research material can be organized into different boards that you can filter by the metadata saved by the Chrome Extension. 

One of the best things about using a tool like Forplay to create your swipe file is that you can then share them with others, even if they don’t have an account. This makes collaboration on your swipe file effortless. 

Screenshot of Foreplay's boards and folders
Foreplay's boards functionality

When selecting the right swipe file tools to use, there are a few things you should consider:

Tag/Search Feature

Saving content is step one, but the real value of a swipe file comes when you can recal it in the future. Fine tuned Taging and Search functionality allows you to stay organized without much effort and recall items you saved in the past. 

Media Support

You should be able to add both images and videos to your swipe files. You can use links instead of media, but links can always expire. It’s better to keep a copy of the content itself which platforms like foreplay allow you to do with a single click. 

Share/Collaboration Feature

Swipe files are usually created for collaborative marketing campaigns, so you will need a way to share your research with team members. The share feature should be simple to use to avoid any complications.

Step 4: Organize Your Resources Into a Swipe File

Finally, it’s time to organize all your collected research neatly into a swipe file. Go onto your chosen platform and lay out your content. Make sure to note down your thoughts about why you chose to include certain images or videos.

For example, explain why an ad appealed to you. Did they have a good caption? Were the visuals eye-catching? Did they include any CTAs?

You can also note down improvements you would make or how you plan to incorporate this research into your own project.

Swipe File Inspiration

Like anything else, the more time you spend creating a robust swipe file the better it will become overtime. That is why if you are creating your first swipe file, it is a good idea to learn get inspiration from top marketers. Here are some places where you can get inspiration when creating your own swiple file. 

foreplay experts landing page screenshot
Foreplay Experts

Free Swipe Files from Forplay Experts

Foreplay Experts is a feature in their platform that allows you to see swipe files from leading media buyers, creative strategists and DTC operators. From within the platform you can easily access thousands of Facebook and TikTok ads saved and organized from experts like Dara Denny

marketing examples website screenshot
Marketing Examples Homepage

Harry Dry’s Copywriting Focused Marketing Examples

If you are more interested in building a general copywriting swipe file there is a popular twitter user named Harry Dry who created a website called Marketing Exmaples. This website is an enriched swipe file that offers mini case studies and other educational material. 

screenshot of neil patel's SEO headline swipe file PDF
SEO Headline Swipe File PDF

Neil Patel’s SEO Headline Swipe File

A really good practice in digital marketing is to get inspiration from other marketing modalities. For example, if you are a media buyer, you might consider taking inspiration from an email swipe file for your next ad copy. Neil Patel has an amazing SEO headline swipe file that could be a great source of inspiration for things like TikTok hooks, landing page headlines and more. 


Creating new and effective marketing campaigns can be taxing, especially when you may be managing multiple clients. Both beginner and vetternan marketers turn to swipe files for inspiration and ideas when developing their next winning campaign. You can collect all kinds of research into one place for easy viewing and write down your thoughts for later reference. 

Swipe files come in many different forms and require the aid of special tools like Foreplay.

With Foreplay, you can save ads online with a simple click and collate them onto custom boards. Try Foreplay for free today and start customizing your very own swipe files!

Zachary Murray
Founder of Foreplay.co
7 Day Free Trial

Get your creative strategy stack

Improve your creative workflow. Save ads, build briefs and produce high converting ads at scale without compromising quality.