Facebook ads are a great way to meet customers where they’re at. But building your Facebook custom audience, setting your bidding strategy, and putting together your ad creative takes a lot of work. The most successful advertisers start out with a bit of research to help guide execution.
One free tool to use when researching your approach to ads is Facebook Ad Library (now officially known as Meta Ad Library). With it, you can see what other advertisers are up to and glean insights to apply to your own ads.
What is Facebook Ad Library?
Facebook Ad Library is a searchable digital database containing information about ads that are currently running across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other Meta platforms. Ads about issues, elections, and politics are also in the database, regardless of whether they’re currently active.
Why and when should you use Facebook Ad Library
There are lots of reasons you might use Ad Library. For example, if you’re getting ready to build and launch your first campaign, you might check out some real-world inspiration for your own Facebook ad strategies. Or maybe you want to validate your ideas or even look for ways to optimize your already running campaigns. Either way, a quick browse through Facebook Ad Library is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and also keep your finger on the pulse of what your audience is seeing.
How to use Facebook Ad Library
Below, we’ll go over how to use Facebook Ad Library for your business.
Search for keywords related to your business
If you want to see ads related to your business, choose some keywords around your industry, brand, or products and see what comes up when you query them. This will give you an idea of the messaging that’s already out there, as well as help you spot any trends you might want to note for your own business priorities.
Vegan food brand Pazalsear might search for “vegan condiments,” since that’s what the brand sells. It might also try other keywords related to specific products, such as “vegan tzatziki” or “vegan mozzarella.”
A search for “vegan condiments” shows what Pazalsear may be up against.
Not sure which keywords to search? Even though Ad Library isn’t an SEO tool, you can use your SEO keyword research skills to find phrases to search in Ad Library. Here are some resources to help you do exactly that:
- Keyword Research Essentials: How to Find the Search Terms Your Customers Use
- The Beginner's Guide to Keyword Research for Ecommerce
Check out your competitors
If you’re keeping an eye on your competitors or simply want to check out the competitive landscape to see what your ads will be competing with, you can focus on specific Facebook pages and advertisers rather than doing a keyword search.
To see what ads your competitors are running, you can either search the brand name in Facebook Ad Library or you can visit the brand’s Facebook page and view the ads from there.
If you want to see what organic skin care and cosmetics brand Blendily is advertising, for example, you could visit its business page and scroll down to the “Page transparency” section.
Click “See all” to get a pop-up window. Scroll down to the Ads from this Page section. There, you’ll get a quick glance at whether or not the page is running ads. We can see Blendily is running ads, so click on Go to Ad Library to check out what those ads are.
Each business page has its own Ad Library page that lists all of the active ads. In this case, Blendily is only running one Facebook ad. Other brands may have a whole collection of ads to check out. If there are multiple active ads, Ad Library organizes and groups them by the month the ads were launched.
Learn more: How to install the Facebook pixel
Filter ads by country
If you sell internationally, you likely run different ad campaigns for customers in different locations. And even if you don’t sell internationally, you might be focused on a specific geographic area. Either way, filtering your ad search by country will help you see ad creative relevant to you and the region you want to target.
To see ads in a certain country, click on the dropdown menu (on the left) to pull up a list of countries. You can either scroll and find the country of your choice or start typing its name in the search box.
You can also filter ads by country from a specific advertiser’s page. For example, if you want to see ads that natural skin care brand Common Heir is running in other countries, you could go to the brand’s Ad Library page and then filter from there.
Filter ads by impressions
Facebook counts an impression each time someone views your ad in their feed or wherever else it’s placed. This is an impactful metric because you can see how many people other advertisers are targeting. Lots of impressions could mean a large target audience or a large budget—or both.
To filter ads by impressions, conduct a search. Then click on the Filters button on the right-hand side and scroll to the bottom of the pop-up window to the section that says “Impressions by date.”
Now you can select a date for which to see ads that received the most impressions. You have the ability to select a single date, a date range, “on or before,” or “on or after.” If you’re interested in seeing which ads got the most impressions during the winter holidays, for example, you might select a date range for September through December.
See ads for Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger
There are many different types of Facebook ads—in fact, advertising on Facebook doesn’t just mean your ads show up on Facebook Feeds and timelines. Some ads show up in Stories, on the right column, or in Messenger. Facebook (now Meta) also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and you can choose to have your Facebook ads appear on various platforms within the Meta ad network.
When you look at ads through Ad Library, you can see which types of ads and placements each one gets. Look at the ad details displayed above the ad creative. You’ll see an active status, start date, and then the list of platforms. Ad Library uses icons to show where the ads are placed.
In the example below, the first ad (left) is on Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger. The second (middle) is just on Instagram and Audience Network, and the third (right) is on Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network.
This will give you insight into which types of ads to consider for your own campaigns. If you notice none of your competitors are running Messenger ads, you might try experimenting to differentiate yourself.
See how long ads have been running
In the screenshot above, you can also see the date each ad started running. This gives you insight into how long people have seen this ad and how long the advertiser has put the budget behind it. If an ad has been running for a while, you might assume that either the ad is performing well or the advertiser hasn’t prioritized updating or optimizing it.
Report ads in violation of Facebook’s terms
If you see ads that violate Facebook’s terms of service, you can use Ad Library to report those instances. Click on the button that says “See ad details” to see a zoomed-in version of the ad. Here, you’ll see a clickable three dots in the upper right corner. Click on that to get the option to report the ad.
From there, Facebook will ask for more details about the ad in question and why you think it should be reported. You’ll have to choose from the following reasons:
- Misleading or scam
- Sexually inappropriate
- Offensive Violence
- Prohibited content
- False news
- Political candidate or issue
- Housing Employment
Definitely use this option if you see advertisers making false claims about your business or copyrighting your assets.
View more ads from the same advertiser
If you’re scrolling through Facebook and see an ad that catches your eye, you can use Ad Library to see other ads run by the same page. Scroll down to the Page Transparency section to get to the page’s ads.
When you get a holistic bird’s-eye view of a specific page’s ads, you can note trends. Maybe the advertiser uses similar imagery and copy, in which case it’s likely that creative performs well. You might also note they use a lot of the same types of ads, which could indicate those have been effective for the advertiser.
See if advertisers are talking about social or political issues
As Facebook continues its efforts to be more transparent and improve its public image, it has also dedicated special features to identifying ads about social or political issues. Misinformation is rampant online, and Facebook has “flagged” these types of ads so people can do their own due diligence and learn more about who’s behind the ads and what the true intentions are.
As such, while you can’t filter your search by industry, you can filter out ads about social issues or politics. This might matter if your brand has strong values, and it makes sense to speak out about a current issue. In fact, some consumers want brands to do this more—as many as 70% of respondents to one survey say they’d like to see more brands take a stand. Pay extra attention if your competitors are getting in on these conversations.
Find out how much advertisers have spent
If you’re researching how much Facebook ads cost to determine how to set your own budgeting and bidding, you can use Ad Library to see what others have invested. While not available for every ad, there are some that offer a fairly detailed budget breakdown, like the one below.
You can see how much the advertiser spent promoting the ad, as well as who they targeted and how many impressions the ad earned. This data is helpful for not only budgeting but targeting as well.