How to Spy on Your Competitors Facebook Ads

Would you like to know what Facebook ads your competitors are running?  Facebook now gives you the ability to spy on your competitor’s Facebook ads or ANY Facebook ads that a Page is running for that matter.

In this article, I’ll show you how to see the ads, what you can and can’t see, and what the implications are for Facebook Marketers.

UPDATE:  This article has been updated on 9/25/19 to reflect the new layout and showcase the Facebook Ad Library.

Spying on Facebook Ads

In an effort to be more transparent (and in response to the election scandal of 2016), Facebook has added a “Page Transparency” section to every Facebook Page – note that it used to be called “Info and Ads”.

From there, you can see what ads they are currently running in which countries, the Page history, and where the admins of the Page are located.

The other interesting thing you can see is when the ads were started.  If the ads have been running a long time, that can be an indication of how successful the ads are.

For example, when I go to my friend Brian Carter’s Page (who always has the funniest ads by the way), I can click on the Page Transparency section and then click to see what ads he’s running.

Facebook Page Transparency


If the Page is running ads you will see they are and then you can select “Go to Ad Library”.  Alternatively you can just go directly to the Facebook Ads Library and just search there to spy on your competitor’s Facebook Ads.

Spy on Competitors Facebook Ads

Now you can scroll through the ads currently running and switch to different countries to see what is running there.

Facebook Ads from competitors


You can’t see how the ads are doing in terms of engagement but you can see where the ads lead to and how long they have been running.

Facebook Ads Library



You can also see this on mobile when you navigate to the Page itself.


What You Can and Can’t See about Facebook Ads Your Competitor is Running

While this might feel invasive to marketers who are running ads, there are limitations that make this not as revealing as it appears.

What you can see:

  • How many Facebook ads they are currently running
  • What the ads look like
  • Where they are running ads
  • When they started
  • Where they lead (you can click on the ad to see the website)

What you can’t see:

  • The exact targeting of the ads (more on this in a bit)
  • The budget of the ads
  • The comments, reactions, and shares on the ads
  • If the ads are successful

So there is a lot about the ad campaigns you can’t know.  But you can see if they are running a lot of the same images that they are probably split testing their ads between many different targets.

A feature that has been available for awhile that many people don’t know is the ability to see “how” the ad might be targeted.  You can only see this if you see the ad in your Facebook News Feed (and that means you must be part of the targeting the ad is using currently).

To access that information, go to the upper right corner of the ad and use the drop-down menu to select Why am I seeing this?

Targeting in a Facebook Ad

You will then get a popup box that gives you some information about the targeting reasons but it can be a little vague.

About Facebook Ad Preferences

I did happen to be car shopping so I was on the Toyota site.

This feature is only helpful if you see the ad in your News Feed and it may only tell you part of the targeting the ad is using.

What this Means for Facebook Marketers

While this change isn’t great news for marketers running ads as it gives more information about the ads you are running to anyone, I don’t think this is a huge problem for a few reasons:

  1. Your competitors can only see the types of ads you are running and what countries you are running them in.
  2. Your competitors can’t see any targeting information unless they are part of the targeting and they see your ad in the News Feed.

But one big negative is that your ads can be “reported” easily from the Info and Ads tab.  This could lead to abuse but hopefully Facebook has some review measures in place to watch for people reporting ads for no reason.

Reporting a Facebook Ad

Facebook does require that you give a reason why you report an ad and they typically won’t stop an ad unless it is violating Facebook policies.  And by the way – I would never report Brian because he is awesome and runs ads the right way.

I do think that this can be a good way to see if someone is “gaming the system” by running ads in foreign countries so that they cheaply drive up the engagement on their ad before running it in their own country (a practice I don’t agree with but is done).

And hopefully it will help prevent any type of election tampering of any kind in the future.

Using the Facebook Ad Library for Research

The other cool thing you can do with the Facebook Ad Library is do general research on keywords.  But a word of warning, I don’t find the search tool to be particularly good (a pretty hefty understatement there).

Search Facebook Ad Library

But you can always try a variety of searches and they can sometimes give you some inspiration on what ads are running in a particular niche.


Will you use this feature or do you already?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you want more Facebook Ads information, make sure you grab my free ebook and mini-course on Facebook Ads!



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