Mastering Facebook Ad Intelligence: Tips for Effective Ad Spying

In today’s digital landscape, running effective Facebook ad campaigns is crucial for brands looking to acquire and engage customers online. However, creating ads that break through the noise and drive results is easier said than done.

This is where ad intelligence comes in. Ad intelligence refers to gathering insights into how competitors are advertising on Facebook in order to inform your own strategy and creative. By studying what messaging, targeting, and formats seem to be working well in your industry, you can get ideas and benchmarks to help optimize your own ad performance.

There are several key benefits to incorporating ad spying into your Facebook marketing efforts:

– Stay on top of emerging trends before competitors to get a first-mover advantage

– Gain inspiration for ad creative that resonates with your target customer base

– Identify new audience segments and interest targeting that may be untapped

– Uncover what type of budget and spend your competitors are investing into Facebook

– Assess which ad formats (video vs image), lengths and styles perform best

– Evaluate real-time performance benchmarks to aim for in your niche


In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, effective ad spying is a competitive advantage that leading brands simply cannot ignore. This guide will explore tips and strategies to help you master Facebook ad intelligence, so you can outsmart competitors and maximize your ad results.

How Ad Spying Works

Facebook’s ad library allows anyone to view active and recent ads from any Facebook advertiser. This provides the foundation for ad spying and competitive intelligence gathering.

By navigating to the Facebook Ad Library and searching for a competitor, you can see examples of their latest ad creative and copy. The ad library shows their recent active ads as well as ads they’ve run over the past 7 years.

While the ad library provides a wealth of information, its limited filtering makes digging into granular targeting and performance data challenging. This is where browser extensions and third-party tools pick up the slack.

Extensions like Facebook AdSpy and Social Insider enable more advanced filtering in the ad library to analyze your competitors’ ads by detailed targeting parameters, device types, and geographic regions. You can filter to analyze performance for different audience segments.

Other tools take things a step further by tracking ad spending and providing historical ad performance data. For example, SimilarWeb and Sensor Tower can reveal your competitors’ ad spend on Facebook and Instagram over time.

By combining the high-level creative and copy analysis from Facebook’s ad library with the advanced filtering and historical data of various tools, you can gain a comprehensive picture of what your top competitors are doing and how it’s working. This intelligence powers everything from creative inspiration to campaign optimization and budget allocation.

Top Competitors to Spy On

Identifying who your top competitors are is a crucial first step in ad spying. You want to focus your efforts on competitors that are thriving in your niche, as their ads are more likely to provide valuable insights.

Start by making a list of the brands you view as your closest competitors. These are companies selling similar products or services to your target audience. Check your own website analytics to see which sites your visitors are coming from – this can indicate who your top referrers are.

You can also use Facebook’s advertising insights to discover competitors. Their “Audience Insights” feature lets you view pages and ads your target audience is engaging with. Spying on competitors found here ensures they are already connecting with your ideal customers.

Once you have your competitor list, analyze their Facebook pages to find their best performing ads. Sort their page posts by engagement to see which ads are generating the most likes, shares and comments. Competitors may also promote their top ads in paid ad carousels.

Focus your spying efforts on these standout ads from each competitor. They demonstrate the type of creative and messaging that resonates most with your shared audience. Closely studying competitors’ successful ads provides advertising inspiration you can model for your own branded content.

Analyzing Ad Creative

What makes an ad stand out from the rest on a viewer’s feed? You can gain valuable insights by analyzing competitors’ ad creative and considering elements like emotional framing, calls-to-action, visuals, and more.

Emotional Framing

Pay attention to the emotional framing in an ad’s copy and visuals. What feelings are they trying to evoke? Some common strategies include playing on fears of missing out, eliciting joy or excitement, appealing to viewers’ sense of pride or self-improvement, and more. Take note of emotive words and imagery that your competitors rely on. You may want to tap into similar emotions in your own ads.


The call-to-action is one of the most important parts of an ad. Is the CTA strong, prominent, and urgent? Does it use action-driven language? CTAs should clearly direct viewers to take a specific action, like “Sign Up Now” or “Shop New Arrivals.” Observe how competitors format and highlight their CTAs for inspiration.


Compelling visuals grab attention on busy news feeds. Look at the types of images and video competitors use in their ads. Consider their style, emotional appeal, and alignment with copy and branding. Photos of real people tend to perform well. You may also spot trends in filters, editing, and graphic design elements to inform your own visual content strategy.


Pay close attention to ad copy length, format, frame, and messaging. Are competitors using short punchy copy or lengthy sales letters? Do they tell stories or list benefits? What messaging approaches seem to work well? Look for copy patterns, hooks, and formats to model and improve upon. The words of an ad can greatly impact its success.

Analyzing competitors’ ad creative provides an inside look at what resonates with your target audience. Use these insights to refine your own ad strategies and creative concepts. With a thorough analysis, you’ll be equipped to make ads that stand out.


Studying Targeting Strategies

Advertisers on Facebook have access to sophisticated targeting options that enable them to precisely reach their ideal audience. When spying on competitors, pay close attention to the targeting strategies they employ in their campaigns.

Demographic, Interest, and Behavioral Targeting

Facebook allows marketers to target users based on demographics like age, gender, relationship status, location, education level and more. Look for trends in the demographics your competitors target to gain insights into their ideal customer profile.

Interest and behavioral targeting takes it a step further by enabling advertisers to reach people based on interests, hobbies, purchase behaviors, and browsing habits. For example, an eCommerce store can target people who have recently searched for or purchased a related product online.

Analyze how your competitors combine demographic, interest and behavioral data to identify prospective customers. This can reveal untapped audiences and new customer acquisition opportunities for your own business.

Narrow vs. Broad Targeting

When studying your competitors’ targeting strategies, also look at how narrow or broad their targeting is for each campaign or ad set.

Narrowly targeted campaigns focused on specific demographics or interests often convert better because they reach users who are higher intent for that product or service. However, more broadly targeted campaigns can help expand reach and find new audiences.

The ideal approach is likely somewhere in the middle – not so hyper-targeted that you miss qualified users, but targeted enough to achieve efficient conversion rates. Experiment with narrow and broad targeting options while keeping an eye on your competitors’ strategies.

By reverse engineering competitors’ targeting settings, you can gain valuable insights to inform your own audience targeting and campaign optimization efforts. Just remember to always keep your brand voice, values and products in mind rather than blindly mimicking another business.

Monitoring Ad Spend

Understanding how much your competitors are spending on Facebook ads can provide valuable insights into their marketing strategy and budget allocation. While Facebook doesn’t publicly disclose advertisers’ budgets or spending, there are a few techniques you can use to estimate their ad spend:

Analyze Impressions : The number of impressions an ad receives over a given time period gives a rough indication of the budget behind it. High-impression ads likely have sizable budgets fueling them. You can view impressions for a competitor’s active ads through Facebook’s Ad Library. Comparing impressions between your ads and competitors ads shows who is outspending who.

Frequency of Ad Tests :The more frequently a competitor runs new ad variations and tests, the larger their budget is likely to be. Extensive split testing and iteration indicates sufficient budgets to experiment. Infrequent testing suggests more constrained resources. Track how often competitors refresh creatives and copy to gauge relative budget size.

Variations in Spending Patterns : Sophisticated advertisers continually optimize spending based on performance data. Look for patterns in daily/weekly budgets and how they correlate to responses and costs per results. Drops in spending may signal depleted budgets. Spikes may indicate a desire to aggressively gain market share. Identify what performance metrics most influence competitor budgeting.


While you can’t know a competitor’s exact ad spend, intelligent monitoring provides approximate spending ranges and patterns. Use these insights on budgets and tests to inform your own Ad investment strategy and optimization. Allocate budget to where it will have maximum impact.

Evaluating Performance Trends

Monitoring the performance trends of competitor ads can provide valuable insights into what is working well in your market. Pay attention to key metrics over time to identify opportunities and optimize your own Facebook ad strategy.

Conversion Rates

Keep an eye on your top competitors’ conversion rates week over week and month over month. Are they steadily increasing or fluctuating? Try to determine what is driving improvements in their conversion rates, such as testing new creative, expanding targeting, or adjusting bidding strategies. Understanding what is moving the needle for competitors can inform your own optimization efforts.

Cost Metrics

Track competitor cost per click (CPC), cost per impression (CPM), and overall ad spend across campaigns. Look for any meaningful changes in their cost metrics and ad budget allocation. Increased spending likely signals a campaign or strategy gaining traction. Decreased spending could mean abandoning poor performers. Evaluating competitor costs can help benchmark your own bids and budgets.

Creative Performance

Monitor the performance of ad variations over their lifetime. How are evergreen creative assets performing compared to new creative? When did they pause or stop running certain ad copies? This can provide insight into what messaging resonates best with your shared audience. It can also reveal opportunities to take advantage of creative fatigue.


Market conditions continually evolve. Keep an eye out for seasonal trends, current events, and external factors influencing performance. Competitor data can act as an early warning sign of changes in the market. You may spot opportunities to align your strategy with seasonal trends before competitors catch on. Understanding seasonality in your vertical will allow you to set realistic performance benchmarks.

By regularly evaluating competitors’ performance trends, you gain a deeper perspective on what works in your market. Use these insights to inform your own testing, optimization, and strategic decisions. But always be sure to analyze competitor data in the context of your own business goals and audience.

Turning Insights into Action

Once you’ve gathered insights by spying on your competitors’ Facebook ads, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. Be careful not to simply copy what others are doing – you’ll want to differentiate yourself. Here are some ways to turn those learnings into an improved ad strategy:

– Identify gaps or opportunities in your competitors’ targeting. For example, if you notice they aren’t advertising to a particular demographic that’s relevant for your business, create custom audiences to reach that group.

– Get new creative ideas from studying their ad copy/messaging, images and videos. Don’t replicate anything verbatim, but be inspired to test something fresh for your own brand.

– If you see competitors retargeting website visitors but you haven’t set that up yet, implement similar automated flows to re-engage potential customers.

– Take note of the type of content that seems to resonate best with their audience. You can emulate that style and format when developing your own ad content.

– Observe competitors’ ad spend across campaigns to get a sense of their budget allocation. Consider shifting more of your budget toward better performing placements.

– Monitor the results competitors see from different bidding strategies. Their lessons learned can inform your own bidding approach.

– Look for creative assets, offers or messaging that clearly outperform others in their ad account. Design ads that take a similar but original approach.


The key is to derive strategic inspiration from competitors without copying anything outright. Ad spying is for understanding what resonates in your industry, not stealing ideas. Maintain your brand’s unique identity and voice while benefiting from the collective knowledge. With smart competitive analysis, you can make your ad budget work harder and achieve greater returns.

Ad Spying Tools

Facebook’s Ad Library is an invaluable resource for ad spying. You can use it to view ads from competitors, analyze their content and targeting, and download detailed reports. When using the Ad Library, focus on:

– Keyword and interest targeting – Look for common interests and keywords competitors are targeting. This reveals their ideal audience and messaging.

– Ad creative and copy – Study ad images, videos and copy for what resonates best with their audience.

– Ad performance – View impressions, reach and spend to gauge what’s working.

Third-party tools like Socialbakers, SEMrush and SimilarWeb also help uncover competitor ads and analytics. With these tools you can:

– Find ads not running currently – See ads competitors have run historically. The Ad Library only shows currently active ads.

– See ad history and performance – Understand when and how long competitors have run ads, and track performance over time.

– Monitor ads cross-platform – Some tools track competitor ads on multiple networks like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

– Estimate ad spend – Use estimated spend data to gauge competitor budget and commitment to advertising.

– Compare your own ads – Benchmark your ad metrics against competitors to identify improvement opportunities.

When using these tools, take the time to dive deep into the available data. Comparing across date ranges, ad platforms and targeting strategies will provide the most meaningful competitive insights.


Facebook ad spying provides invaluable insights into your competitors’ strategies. By continuously monitoring their ads, creatives, targeting, and performance trends, you gain an informational edge that can lead to more effective campaigns.

There are several key takeaways when it comes to Facebook ad spying:

– Make ad spying part of your regular analytics routine. Don’t just check competitor ads occasionally; monitor them on an ongoing basis to identify trends and changes.

– Focus on your core competitors, but also keep an eye on leading brands in your space. You can gain inspiration and learn from bigger brands with more ad spend.

– Look beyond the surface creative. Analyze ad copy, images/videos, and Calls-To-Action to uncover what’s resonating.

– Study both successful and poor performing ads. You can learn just as much from what’s not working for competitors.

– Leverage spy tools to scale your efforts. Manual monitoring is limited, so use tools that provide historical and cross-account data.

– Don’t just copy competitors; improve upon what’s working for them. Put your own unique spin on their tactics.

– Test and iterate based on the insights gained. Continuously refine your creative, targeting, and messaging.


Ad spying takes some effort, but pays dividends. It provides a blueprint for what’s working in your industry, so you can apply those same principles while crafting differentiated and high-performing campaigns. By staying one step ahead of competitors, you’ll keep your ad strategy evolving and stay atop the competition.