How to Conduct an Effective Competitive Analysis of Ad Creative: Competitor’s Ads, Competitor’s Best Ads, Ad Spying Tools


Competitive analysis is the single most important step to generate better creative for your user acquisition ads.  

Whenever we start work with a new client, we begin by evaluating the ads of their top competitors. Why? Because creating a winning ad is very hard – and only one in twenty new ads will usually beat control. With a 5% success rate, you have a tremendous amount of work to uncover a fresh winning concept.

Also, we’re not looking to create just “another ad.” We want to create a 10x, maybe even a 100x ad that will blow the doors off all prior results. Usually, that means we’ll have to test a lot of ads, but we’ll also have to start off with some strong new concept ads, too. Competitive analysis is especially good for developing these types of bold new concepts – completely new approaches that haven’t been tried before.

Because high-performance ads are so challenging to create, it makes sense to use every trick you’ve got. And the best trick is competitive analysis.

Your competitors have already poured a ton of resources and ad spend and testing time into creating their own high-performance ads and they are failing at 95% too. Why not “borrow” from their best ads and customize them to create fresh ideas for your campaigns?

Once you know how to find and identify your competitor’s high-performing ads, you’ll have an endless supply of tested concepts ready to either make new ads from or to use in your ad tests.

Not everyone can do competitive analysis well

There is one caveat, though… we’ve found it really matters who does the competitive analysis. User acquisition managers typically aren’t good enough at evaluating creative concepts, and the creative team normally aren’t good enough with analytics to assess that part of ad performance.

The ideal person for this work will have both quantitative and creative skills, or you can create a team of two or more people so together they can have the optimal skill set.

Once you’ve got your creative analyst (or your creative analyst team) the objective will be to reject as few ideas as possible so you can increase your creative library – be data-driven, not opinion driven.

To do this, you’ll need a few tools. The first and best two tools are free and easily accessible. They’re even on Facebook.

Facebook’s new ads library tool, and other competitive analysis tools  

Facebook’s new ads library tool just launched, and it’s an aggressive move towards transparency for the ad platform, sparked by ongoing calls for more transparency. 

The tool will let you see: 

  Every ad that’s active now or that has even been active since May of 2018.

  How much a page has spent on Facebook ads.

  Which pages’ ads reference a particular keyword.

You can also run weekly reports for different searches, and after mid-May of this year, you’ll be able to get daily, monthly and quarterly reports as well. You don’t even need a Facebook account to access the information.

 Clearly, this is a goldmine of competitive information. You want to be reviewing your competitors’ ads for trends like:



    Use of motion

  Call to actions

  Colors and backgrounds

  Text placement

– Characters

– Logos and/or stickers

  Anything that looks like a new element in an ad, or an old element used in a new way

The Facebook ads library tool may become even more useful soon. That’s because Facebook developer accounts can now have access to the ads library API. This, of course, means developers can build tools to sift through ads and data, and means we might be able to spot trends faster, and build better ads and better tests.

The one thing Facebook is holding back on is data. We still can’t see performance data about the particular ads, just the ads themselves. But it’s fairly safe to assume that if your competitors are smart, and an ad has been running for more than a couple of days, it’s doing well.

The Facebook ads library leapfrogs what used to be one of our favorite competitive analysis tricks: To go to the Facebook page of a competitor and click the “Info and Ads” link in the left-hand column. You can still do that, but the new ads library is vastly more powerful.

But what about that performance data? You may still be able to get it but from third-party tools. We recommend all of these Facebook ad spying tools, and we used them ourselves: 

– Social Ad Scout

– PowerAdSpy

– Connect Explore

– SocialPeta

– AdSpy

As you review competitors’ ads, make a log of what you find. It’s probably best to organize your research first by the competitor, then by the ads, they’re running, and then by what you notice, and then by what you specifically want to create or test. Create a table for each competitor so you can add rows for dates.

A table like this could be a starting point. Adapt as necessary and consider adding another column for screenshots or even captured videos of ads that especially interest you. 

Keeping a log like this takes time, but you don’t have to have a table for every competitor. And if you set aside even one hour a week to do a review like this, you’ll have all the new ideas you can handle. 

If you’ve got the time, consider following the ads of a few non-competitive advertisers whose work you admire. Sometimes, really great ideas can come from outside your niche, though don’t expect miracles… outside the box, ad concepts can work really well, but often they flop pretty hard, too. Use your testing methodology to minimize how much exposure you give any ad until it has proven itself. 


Why miss out on a ton of actionable information – proven ads that are working for other advertisers’ in your niche? Doing even basic competitive analysis can be highly profitable, especially now that Facebook’s ads library makes it so much easier. 


About the Author:


Brian Bowman is CEO of Consumer Acquisition


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