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New Transparency in Facebook Ads Reveals Competitor Marketing Strategies

On Thursday, June 28th 2018, Facebook announced that it would provide greater transparency into the active ads on its platform and the companies that put them forth. Users can now view the “Info and Ads” section on the left hand column of a company’s Facebook page and find out information about that company’s page — for instance the date it was created or if the page has ever changed its name — as well as view all of that company’s active ads currently running on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and any of Facebook’s partner networks.

This new feature comes in light of the data protection scandals involving Facebook ads and political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica during the last presidential election. In a move to improve the situation, Facebook is now providing increased visibility to its ads in order to hold advertisers accountable, and to give its users a 360 degree view of the company’s ad messaging structure. Users can now see all of the ads a company is running, even if the ads do not pertain to their demographic and would not normally be shown to them.

According to the announcement:

“Giving people more information about any organization and the ads it’s currently running will mean increased accountability for advertisers, helping to prevent abuse on Facebook.”

Active Ads Provides Insight Into a Company’s Marketing Strategy

Why is this new feature relevant for marketers? Previously as a Facebook user, you would only be able to see ads that were relevant for you and your demographic. With the ability to see all of the ads a company is promoting, you can now gain insight into each company’s overall marketing strategy — the different personas and demographics they are targeting, their different messaging architectures, and what headlines and images they are testing out. Facebook has, in a sense, opened up the playing field for creative exchange between companies. That and also upping the challenge for companies to maintain their competitive marketing strategies.

Identify your competitor’s target demographics

You can often guess which demographic a company is targeting by studying the image and copy of its different ads. Take these three ads from LendingClub (pictured below), for instance. They each are clearly targeting a specific demographic, each ad addressing that demographic’s specific needs and desires.

The millennial-targeted ad promises a zero hassle experience (“Get your hassle-free loan today”)  and shows an image of a hip and slightly scruffy young man holding three credit cards, pictured in front of his messy closet and bicycle. This is a clear hint that a personal loan might help this young man organize his personal finances, and perhaps his life as well.

Meanwhile the “Major purchase? Try a personal loan” headline touts the ability of a personal loan to help the customer make a large purchase. This is clearly targeted towards middle-aged buyers who likely have a substantial enough savings to buy a house or a business, as the image of a middle-aged man holding a cloth suggests (the cloth makes it look like he has just washed his hands from cleaning or working with his hands in some way).

And finally, for newlyweds or young couples looking to fix up their house, LendingClub advertises the ability to pursue home improvement with a low rate personal loan, saying “it’s time to kick off your home improvement project.”

It’s clear from the images and headlines of these ads that LendingClub is targeting people ages from anywhere between 25 to 65. From the young millennial looking to get his or her life in order, to the couple in their 30s looking to improve their first home, to the middle-aged baby boomer who is looking to make an investment in a business or a piece of property.

Pinpoint which website elements your competitors are testing

Studying your competitor’s active Facebook ads can give you an insight into the types of images and headlines they are testing. Take the following ad — the copy and headline is the same as the previous millennial-targeted ad but the image is different, which indicates that the LendingClub is testing out different images with the headline “Get your hassle free loan.” This could mean a number of things, but one inference you might make is that the concept of a “hassle-free loan” is appealing to a wide demographic and that LendingClub is now testing that headline with a number of different images to appeal to a larger audience.

Ad transparency allows for greater sharing of ideas

With the ability to see all of the active ads a company is running, marketers are now given the ability to deduce their competitor’s entire marketing strategy — seeing which demographic they are targeting and what kinds of messages they are sending about their brand. This is a double edged sword, as their competitors can in turn see their ads and likewise be able to construct an even more competitive marketing strategy.

Furthermore, for website and ad testing, the increased ad transparency can divulge a greater insight into which elements — copy, images, layout — a company is testing on their ads and on their website. This can help companies come up with better ideas for testing their own sites and ads, using what they know of their competitor’s testing strategy to create their own effective testing campaigns. One thing that was brought up by conversion expert Sam Miller from Cognifide during an interview, was that many companies suffer from “analysis paralysis” when beginning to test their websites. By taking inspiration from other companies, marketers can better pinpoint their own testing objectives and create more effective idea hypothesis to guide their testing campaigns.

Need help with finding ideas to test your website funnel? Read our guide the Big Book of Ascend Ideas and jump start your testing campaign.