Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content

Workshop: Learning in the Presence of Strategic Behavior

Statistical Tests of Incentive Compatibility in Display Ad Auctions

Andres Munoz


Consider a buyer participating in a repeated auction in an ad exchange. How does a buyer figure out whether her bids will be used against her in the form of reserve prices? There are many potential A/B testing setups that one can use. However, we will show many natural experimental designs have serious flaws.

For instance, one can use additive or multiplicative perturbation to the bids. We show that additive perturbations to bids can lead to paradoxical results, as reserve prices are not guaranteed to be monotone for non-MHR distributions, and thus higher bids may lead to lower reserve prices!

Similarly, one may be tempted to measure bid influence in reserves by randomly perturbing one's bids. However, unless the perturbations are aligned with the partitions used by the seller to compute optimal reserve prices, the results are guaranteed to be inconclusive.

Finally, in practice additional market considerations play a large role---if the optimal reserve price is further constrained by the seller to satisfy additional business logic, the power of the buyer to detect the effect to which his bids are being used against him is limited.

In this work we develop tests that a buyer can user to measure the impact of current bids on future reserve prices. In addition, we analyze the cost of running such experiments, exposing trade-offs between test accuracy, cost, and underlying market dynamics. We validate our results with experiments on real world data and show that a buyer can detect reserve price optimization done by the seller at a reasonable cost.

Andres Munoz Medina, Sebastien Lahaie, Sergei Vassilvitskii and Balasubramanian Sivan

Live content is unavailable. Log in and register to view live content