September 22, 2022
 min read

How to find ads on Facebook: Using the Facebook Ads Library

Reza Askari

Once upon a time, when I was an ad strategist, I found myself trying to dig up old ads to look for inspiration for new ones. I wanted to find new ways to improve my clients digital ad campaigns, and I figured--what better way to do that then see what the competition is doing?

At the time, there wasn't an easy way to see competitor ads. Luckily, I was part of a digital marketing WhatsApp group that would send screenshots of really good ads to each other for food for thought. I recall seeing an ad that showed a picture of a puppy and in bold text stated “TESTED ON DOGS” which immediately elicited a negative emotion, followed by much smaller text below “... and they loved it”. It was an ad for dog treats – it brought a huge smile to my face.

I saw it, thought it was brilliant, forgot to screenshot it, and never saw it again. I searched and searched and could not find it. It sucked as I had really wanted, and still do want to share it. 

I was annoyed with myself for forgetting to screencapture it. At that time, I remember wishing there was a way to find a bank of ads on Facebook. In 2019 my wish was granted, Facebook Ads Library was born. 

What is the Facebook Ads Library?

Facebook (now Meta) built Facebook Ads Library which is a searchable digital database that shares ads that are currently running across Facebook, IG and its other correlated platforms, ie we can now find ads on Facebook. 

I can search for ads that are running anywhere in the world. Sometimes I like to look at what types of ads an industry as a whole are running. I like to look for trends in what the top companies are doing (another way to do this is to use Google Trends – we’ll go over that in a separate blog). The most popular call-to-action (CTA) is Learn More → but McDonalds, Netflix, and Wealth Simple are all using “Get Offer” as their CTA → perhaps they know something that we don’t (note: this is a fictional example).  

One pitfall that is unfortunate is that Facebook Ads Library doesn’t share past ads other than those about issues, elections, and politics. In some ways it’s a blessing, as some ads should be retired forever.

How to access the Facebook Ads Library

1. Open Facebook Ad Library

Once you’ve loaded the page up, it will look like a regular search engine. Make sure you have the correct country selected in the top-right corner of your screen before moving on. If you're not seeing anything, make sure you aren't using any ad-blocking add-ons.

Once the page is loaded, it should look similar to Google Search. Select the correct country. I usually select “All Countries” to start because I’d like to see everywhere a company runs ads and I filter down later. 

search ads function in facebook ads library

2. Choose Your Category

Before looking up any ads, you’ll have to choose between two categories. 

Unless you’re searching for a politically charged ad, select “All Ads”

select a category function in facebook ads library

3. Search For a Brand

To find the ad you’re looking for, type in the name of the brand/company that is running it. Sometimes a brand’s Facebook Page name will be slightly different than the brand’s name, be mindful of this as you may need to search for both. For franchises, you might even find multiple locations with their own Facebook Pages running ads as well. 

Search Results for “Moxies”

search results function in facebook ads library

Click on the advertiser and it will pull up all the Facebook ads that the brand is currently running.

moxies restaurant ad showing summer flavours to savour

4. Click On Specific Ads

Once you’ve chosen a page and are viewing the ads, you can click “See Ad Details” under individual ads to see more information. This shows you the date the ad launched, what platforms it is on (Facebook, FB Messenger, Instagram, etc), as well as if the ad has multiple versions running. You can also interact with the ad and click on its links or CTAs. The Moxies CTA took me to a menu page for the restaurant closest to my location. 

moxies location finder input showing west georgia location temporarily closed

Why you should look at your competitors' ads

One of the main reasons we use Facebook to find ads is to look at our clients’ direct competition. Who is taking market share away from our friends and how are they doing it?

If we see that several physiotherapy clinics are running very strong video remarketing ads, perhaps that is worthy of consideration for us as well. 

mydetox physiotherapy ad shown in facebook ads library

We work with a Swiss watch retailer and we noticed that there was a trend in big watch companies using ads that referenced night life, clubbing, etc. Lifestyle imagery and video that spoke to being the bell of the ball on nights out. Text like “Get noticed with this exclusive new…” with supporting imagery. We used that as inspiration and built an ad set doing much the same with success.

Sometimes your competitors will be doing a poor job of advertising → draw inspiration from other verticals and industries.

Using the Facebook Ads Library for inspiration

We like to use Facebook Ads Library to find more than just competitors ads. Some industries aren’t very active in advertising. If we’re trying to help a B2B service like a company that does ink refills for corporate business’ printers, perhaps nobody is running ads in that space. In that instance, we might research what popular B2B companies are doing in ads. 

Salesforce, Slack, Docusign.. We can look at what successful B2B companies in digital tech are doing and perhaps we can find inspiration for our ink refill business.

If you’re selling one type of feminine hygiene product like razors, perhaps it still would benefit you to look at ads for complementary products like shaving cream or after-shave. It may even be a good shout to look at ads for other products in the same category like tampons, pads, etc. If you share a target audience with other businesses, it would benefit you to see how other businesses are speaking to that target audience. Do they sound like an authority, a mentor, or a friend? What type of language are they using? How are they motivating them? What pain points are they alleviating?

While I can’t use Facebook Ads Library to find that ever elusive dog treat advertisement, now if I forget to screenshot something I have an opportunity to revisit the ad while it’s still active. 

If anyone out there wants us to write you some shock-value ads or if you have any questions on Facebook Ads Library, contact your friends at Brandcamp today for support. 

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