15 Sep 2023 How to Platforms Social media

How to find out which ads are running on social media platforms

The TikTok Ads Library on a laptop screen

I get it: there are a tonne of ads on social media these days. Some of them are diabolical. Others are genius. Perhaps you’re looking for some inspiration for your next campaign. Maybe you want to see what other businesses are doing, and how they’re doing it.

These ‘transparency centres’ have come about partly in an attempt to reassure users (and authorities) that these platforms are not a place where nefarious people and organisations can target certain groups with rather nasty messages and/or outright lies.

Fortunately, there are ways of finding out who’s targeting what to whom. Here’s the information you need to get all Poirot.


Ads published across the Meta suite of products (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger etc.) are published in the Meta Ads Library.

Meta Ad Library screenshot

Searching for a particular brand couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is select your location of the ads for the audience being targeted. Then select the category (‘All Ads’ is your catch all here). Finally enter a keyword for the type of ad you’re looking for, or the advertiser if you’re looking to find a particular organisation’s ads.

The results will be displayed like this:

Results from Meta Ads Library

From here you can see individual ad details, including the media and copy that is published.

Advertising on Meta’s suite of platforms is often the most cost-effective and gets great reach, so this is a good place to start, even if you’re just looking for inspiration for the types of ads you might be up against.

If you’re interested in researching influencers, the Branded Content section is for you. Simply search for either the creator you’re keen on, or a brand name that is partnering with a creator, and you’ll see the branded content that the influencer has created.

Branded content screenshot from Meta Ads Library

There are specific rules on ensuring influencers mark their content as promotional if there is any kind of commercial relationship, so this is another way of checking that any influencer you may use understands that this is a professional process.


Covering the many different platforms within the ecosystem like Google Ads and YouTube, Google Ads Transparency Center allows you to discover a wide range of search ads, including text ads, display ads and video ads.

Google Ads Transparency centre screenshot

Here you can explore different results in different industries (great for inspiration), different creative approaches and effective ad copy. You will need to identify a company or website that you know is advertising, so either enter competitive brands to yours or focus on an ad you’ve seen yourself.

As YouTube is part of Google’s ad platform, any video ads on that platform (or anywhere on the Google ecosystem) will be available to find here.


Ads on TikTok are often very different in style, so it’s great that the platform has opened up the TikTok Ad Library to let you see what types of ads are there.

TikTok ads library screenshot

This library is a particularly good one to use as research. You’ll see ads that are performing well, many of which are hot takes on trends on the organic side of the platform. That means there’s inspo for some organic content, too.

One thing worth paying attention to is the style of ads you see. On all platforms, users are swiping to move forward from ads, but the action is swift on TikTok, so the first few seconds are crucial. Pay attention to how ‘native’ they look.


The LinkedIn Ad Library offers insight into the ads on this platform. LinkedIn ads can feel expensive compared to other social platforms, particularly display ads, so it’s handy to check what’s there already to see if you can create better paid content.

LinkedIn Ad Library screenshot

Search here for ads that a specific company is running (if you are snooping here) or by your keyword(s).

LinkedIn Ad Library results screenshot.

Uniquely, sponsored InMail message/conversation ads are also visible so you can see the type of copy being used in the inboxes of millions of users to get those calls to action clicked.

X (Twitter)

Despite many brands deciding that X is no longer a platform they can support, there are still plenty of advertisers using the ads platform. Having reviewed the X Ads Transparency Center, the quality of the ads on this platform since its rebrand isn’t exactly inspiring.

Sadly, what was Twitter, retired the ability to look at all ads on their platform in 2019. I can’t see Elon Musk wanting that to come back any time soon.

That said, for EU advertising there is the Ads Repository where you can generate a report for a brand and the ads within an EU country.

X Ads Repository screenshot

You will need to know which brand you are looking for, and X has changed the label from ‘Promoted’ to ‘Ad’, which I feel makes it more difficult to spot what is an ad in your feed. Once you have the details, the report generation takes some time to produce and you must then download a CSV file rather than simply took on the screen. Not the best system.


One of the more visually stimulating platforms, in our experience, ads here can be as ‘ad-like’ as they come. If you’re considering advertising on Pinterest, you can see to what extent you need to be creative in your imagery/video and copy.

Sadly, there isn’t a specific ad library for Pinterest – well, not officially anyway. Although there are a few tools online that claim to be able to show you where the ads are, I’m never sure it’s completely reliable to use a third party for this.

In the fast-paced world of social media advertising, staying informed and inspired is crucial. By delving into social media ad libraries, you gain valuable insights into the strategies, trends and effective tactics used by brands across various platforms. From Meta and Google to TikTok and LinkedIn, each ad library offers a unique window into the vast and creative world of advertising.

So, take advantage of these resources, get inspired, and fuel your own creativity.

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