3 ways to spy on your competitors' ads

Julia Moore
Analyzing competitors' ads will help you adjust your advertising campaign. In this article, we tell you how to do this using paid services and for free.
Reading time — 8 minutes

Why do you need an analysis of competitors' ads?

Ads of your competitors can help you develop and make better your own advertising strategy.

What can you do with the help of analysis?

See the best ads of competitors and use them as the basis of your ads

Avoid copying it, take only the concept! For instance, if you notice that rivals often launch target ads in the video format, you should check and try it too. Pay attention to what is shown in the photo and video ads. For instance, if competitors use photos of children, then you will launch something similar.

Don't repeat the mistakes!

Look at which ads are turned off most quickly, as it most likely didn't work. If the competitor promoted a giveaway or contest, look not only at its design, but also at the number of participants and their reviews.

For example, thanks to the competitors' ads, you can see that contests have a small number of participants when a photo is without a word "contest".

Create catchy ads

If you see that your rivals use the same ads all the time, it's a chance for you to create something new and attract users' attention.

Just start with checking whether your idea was tested earlier or not. It's possible that it didn't work, therefore, competitors decided to stop it.

You can check previously launched ads and evaluate their effectiveness with the help of special services, which will be discussed later.

Evaluate competitors' offers

If you are going to launch an advertising campaign, but you see that a competitor has launched an ad with more favorable conditions, then review your advertising offer or postpone your launch date.

Let's move to the services that help you to view competitors' Instagram ads.

BigSpy

BigSpy is a service that shows current and past advertisements on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Yahoo, YouTube. Let's get in to the deep to understand the BigSpy usefulness for business.

What can you do?

  • Find targeted ads of competitors in the Instagram feed launched using Ads Manager (advertising cabinet, where targeted ads are configured in Instagram).
  • Find competitors' ads from bloggers or partners in the news feed.
  • Analyze the profile of competitors and see all the ads launched by competitors.

How to use?

We have to mention, that if you use a free plan, you can make search only on Facebook.

Let's look at the existed fields.

  • Date. If you need to view targeted ads that are currently running, select the date.
  • Profile. If you want to find ads of a particular account, tap on the button from the left of search bar and choose Advertiser. Please note that the service doesn't guarantee that all ads will be found. This is due to the fact that the audience for which targeted advertising is configured may be too narrow.
  • Device type. Here you choose which operating system (Android, iOS) is configured to display ads.
  • All creative types. Here, you need to specify which format should be shown in the search result: a photo or a video.

Let's look at the example. We select 09.16.2021-09.22.2021 as the date of ads and give a link to the FB account of Audi.

The service found 15 104 ads.

Now let's try to find an ad by keyword. For instance, look for who advertised the cosmetics from 09.16.2021 to 09.22.2019 on Instagram. Tap on the button which is left from the search bar and choose Ads Text. In the search bar, write "Kyliecosmetics".

The service found 53 ads.

The search results can be sorted by the date of the last appearance of the ad, the launch date of the targeted ad, the number of likes and comments.

Pros and cons of the service

Pros:

  • Search for ads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. The service is suitable for specialists who work with several social networks.
  • You can get 10-Day Pro plan for free if you invite 3 friends of yours.
  • The ad format is clearly visible in the search results, the name of the button (for example, "Learn more", "To the store") and where it leads (to the website, to the Instagram profile, to the application).
  • Interface is rather simple.

Cons:

  • You can analyze only Facebook ads for free.
  • The service doesn't show ads that competitors have posted on Instagram stories.
  • There are big limitations in the demo version.

iSpionage

Another research tool for analyzing competitors and tracking competitors' advertising is iSpionage.

What can you do?

  • Identify top Competitors' keywords. 
  • Find out how much your rivals spent on their ads campaigns. 
  • See their landing pages. 
  • Find out their monthly PPC budget.

How to use?

iSpionage offers to make 10 competitor analysis per day for free.

The interface is really simple. All that you have to do is add a link to the profile of your competitor and see its statistics. The reports are made in the form of tables or graphs.

Pros and cons of the service

Pros:

  • Easy to use. 
  • Provides amazing landing page date. 
  • Allows users to create effective keyword alerts.
  • Gives keyword suggestions.
  • Identifies long-tail and mainstream keywords.

Cons:

  • The free account has a lot of limitations. 
  • Display ads cannot be tracked. 
  • Serial competitive data isn’t available. 
  • Sometimes competitors and their data are missing.

Instagram

Targeted advertising

This method will allow you to track the current ads of competitors in the Instagram feed and stories that were launched using targeted advertising. What you have to do?

  1. Open Instagram, go to the competitor's page and tap on the three dots in the upper right corner.
  2. Tap About This Account.
  3. Choose Active Ads.
  4. Sort out ads by the necessary parameters.

You will see all the current targeted ads that match the specified parameters in the filter.

Advertising from bloggers

This method will show all mentions of the competitor's account in other accounts, including those of bloggers or partners.

Let's find partners of Serengette who mentioned it in their posts.

  1. Open Instagram and go to the page of your competitor to search for ads. 
  2. Tap the icon on the right under the Bio. 
  3. You'll see all the publications where this account was tagged. You can find manually those posts which were made by bloggers or partners.

This search can take you from a few minutes to hours.

Pros and cons of the services

Pros:

  • A simple method that doesn't require any specific knowledge and skills.
  • It's free of charge, so startups and small companies with free budget can use.
  • All that you need is Internet, smartphone and an Instagram app.

Cons:

  • You have to do a great part of the whole search by yourself.
  • It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of targeted advertising, since it is impossible to track how long it has been switching on.
  • You can't find advertising posts from bloggers and partners in Stories.
  • It's hard to compare the information is not shown clearly, because you have to switch from one ad to another.
  • Only active ads are shown. Therefore, you won't see ads that are disabled.

How to analyze the effectiveness of ads

You can analyze the effectiveness of ads launched using a target by:

  • the amount of likes;
  • the amount of comments;
  • the time of the display (the ads that are shown the longest are most often effective).

This is most convenient to do with the help of paid services. You can only view current ads on a competitor's Instagram account, but you won't know how long they have been running (unless, of course, you follow them daily and compare them).

This is how an ad looks like in the BigSpy service. 

When analyzing ads, focus on the number of likes and comments. Look at the date, this parameter indicates when the service was able to track this ad for the first and last time.

The effectiveness of ads from bloggers or partners is more difficult to assess. Here you can focus only on the number of comments and likes. Or you can contact directly the company that works with the blogger or used to work, and ask if they were happy with the cooperation. Unfortunately, a large company is unlikely to answer you if their advertising has gone, but if the company is small, they are willing to share such information.

Let's recap

To successfully launch an advertising campaign, you need to know what your competitors are offering. This is the only way you can form a competitive offer. Do not forget to periodically return to the analysis of competitors and their advertising. This is not a one-time task.

  • It is most convenient, if the budget allows, to purchase access to online services for a month and compare them in practice. Service demos have limitations.
  • Keep in mind that the services don't guarantee the search of all ads. It may turn out that each service will track different advertisements.
  • If your company has a limited budget, use the free method.

Analyzing competitors ads will help you make a profit from advertising. But you will achieve the best result if you are able to create attractive content, set up ads for the target audience, design an Instagram account so that it inspires trust.

What ways do you know how to spy on the ads of your rivals? Write in the comments below!