Song Zuo

Song Zuo

Authored Publications
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    Mechanism Design for Large Language Models
    Paul Duetting
    Haifeng Xu
    Proceedings of the ACM on Web Conference 2024, Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 144–155
    Preview abstract We investigate auction mechanisms for AI-generated content, focusing on applications like ad creative generation. In our model, agents' preferences over stochastically generated content are encoded as large language models (LLMs). We propose an auction format that operates on a token-by-token basis, and allows LLM agents to influence content creation through single dimensional bids. We formulate two desirable incentive properties and prove their equivalence to a monotonicity condition on output aggregation. This equivalence enables a second-price rule design, even absent explicit agent valuation functions. Our design is supported by demonstrations on a publicly available LLM. View details
    Preview abstract In recent years, the growing adoption of autobidding has motivated the study of auction design with value-maximizing auto-bidders. It is known that under mild assumptions, uniform bid-scaling is an optimal bidding strategy in truthful auctions, e.g., Vickrey-Clarke-Groves auction (VCG), and the price of anarchy for VCG is 2. However, for other auction formats like First-Price Auction (FPA) and Generalized Second-Price auction (GSP), uniform bid-scaling may not be an optimal bidding strategy, and bidders have incentives to deviate to adopt strategies with non-uniform bid-scaling. Moreover, FPA can achieve optimal welfare if restricted to uniform bid-scaling, while its price of anarchy becomes 2 when non-uniform bid-scaling strategies are allowed. All these price of anarchy results have been focused on welfare approximation in the worst-case scenarios. To complement theoretical understandings, we empirically study how different auction formats (FPA, GSP, VCG) with different levels of non-uniform bid-scaling perform in an autobidding world with a synthetic dataset for auctions. Our empirical findings include: * For both uniform bid-scaling and non-uniform bid-scaling, FPA is better than GSP and GSP is better than VCG in terms of both welfare and profit; * A higher level of non-uniform bid-scaling leads to lower welfare performance in both FPA and GSP, while different levels of non-uniform bid-scaling have no effect in VCG. Our methodology of synthetic data generation may be of independent interest. View details
    Preview abstract We study the price of anarchy of the generalized second-price auction where bidders are value maximizers (i.e., autobidders). We show that in general the price of anarchy can be as bad as 0. For comparison, the price of anarchy of running VCG is 1/2 in the autobidding world. We further show a fined-grained price of anarchy with respect to the discount factors (i.e., the ratios of click probabilities between lower slots and the highest slot in each auction) in the generalized second-price auction, which highlights the qualitative relation between the smoothness of the discount factors and the efficiency of the generalized second-price auction. View details
    Preview abstract Although costs are prevalent in ad auctions, not many auction theory works study auction design in the presence of cost in the classic settings. One reason is that most auctions design in the setting without cost directly generalize to the setting with cost when the bidders maximizing quasi-linear utility. However, as auto-bidding becomes a major choice of advertisers in online advertising, the distinction from the underlying behavior model often leads to different solutions of many well-studied auctions. In the context of ad auctions with cost, VCG achieves optimal welfare with quasi-linear utility maximizing bidders, while has 0 welfare approximation guarantee with value maximizing bidders who follow the optimization behind common auto-bidding algorithms. In this paper, we prove that the approximation welfare guarantee of VCG auction can be significantly improved by a minimal change --- introducing cost multipliers. We note that one can use either one multiplier per auction or one multiplier per bidder, but one global multiplier across all auctions and bidders does not work. Finally, to echo with our theoretical results, we conduct empirical evaluations using semi-synthetic data derived from real auction data of a major advertising platform. View details
    Calibrated Click-Through Auctions
    Dirk Bergemann
    Paul Duetting
    Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022, pp. 47-57
    Preview abstract We analyze the optimal information design in a click-through auction with stochastic click-through rates and known valuations per click. The auctioneer takes as given the auction rule of the click-through auction, namely the generalized second-price auction. Yet, the auctioneer can design the information flow regarding the click-through rates among the bidders. We require that the information structure to be calibrated in the learning sense. With this constraint, the auction needs to rank the ads by a product of the value and a calibrated prediction of the click-through rates. The task of designing an optimal information structure is thus reduced to the task of designing an optimal calibrated prediction. We show that in a symmetric setting with uncertainty about the click-through rates, the optimal information structure attains both social efficiency and surplus extraction. The optimal information structure requires private (rather than public) signals to the bidders. It also requires correlated (rather than independent) signals, even when the underlying uncertainty regarding the click-through rates is independent. Beyond symmetric settings, we show that the optimal information structure requires partial information disclosure, and achieves only partial surplus extraction. View details
    Preview abstract We study the design of revenue-maximizing mechanisms for value-maximizing agents with budget constraints. Agents have return-on-spend constraints requiring a minimum amount of value per unit of payment made and budget constraints limiting their total payments. The agents' only private information are the minimum admissible ratios on the return-on-spend constraint, referred to as the target ratios. Our work is motivated by internet advertising platforms, where automated bidders are increasingly being adopted by advertisers to purchase advertising opportunities on their behalf. Instead of specifying bids for each keyword, advertiser set high-level goals, such as maximizing clicks, and targets on cost-per-clicks or return-on-spend, and the platform automatically purchases opportunities by bidding in different auctions. We present a model that abstracts away the complexities of the auto-bidding procurement process that is general enough to accommodate many allocation mechanisms such as auctions, matchings, etc. We reduce the mechanism design problem when agents have private target ratios to a challenging non-linear optimization problem with monotonicity constraints. We provide a novel decomposition approach to tackle this problem that yields insights into the structure of optimal mechanisms and show that surprising features stem from the interaction on budget and return-on-spend constraints. Our optimal mechanism, which we dub the target-clipping mechanism, has an appealing structure: it sets a threshold on the target ratio of each agent, targets above the threshold are allocated efficiently, and targets below are clipped to the threshold. View details
    Non-Excludable Dynamic Mechanism Design
    Proceedings of the 2021 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA), SIAM, pp. 1357-1373
    Preview abstract Dynamic mechanism design expands the scope on what type of allocation rules can be implemented and what revenue can be extracted when compared to static mechanisms. The case of excludable environments (i.e. one player can be de-allocated while keeping the allocation of the remaining players intact) is very well understood. The mechanisms in the literature don’t extend to the non-excludable environments. Two prototypical examples of such environments are: (i) public projects, where all players must have the same allocation; and (ii) non-disposable goods, where each item must be allocated to some player. We show a general mechanism that can asymptotically extract the full surplus in such environments. Moreover, we fully characterize which abstract mechanism design environments allow for full surplus extraction in the limit. Our characterization is based on the geometry of achievable utility sets – a convex set characterizing the expected utility profiles that can be implemented in a static mechanism. View details
    Preview abstract Auto-bidding has become one of the main options for bidding in online advertisements, in which advertisers only need to specify high-level objectives and leave the complex task of bidding to auto-bidders. In this paper, we propose a family of auctions with boosts to improve welfare for auto-bidders with both return on ad spend constraints and budget constraints. Our empirical results validate our theoretical findings and show that both the welfare and revenue can be improved by selecting the weight of the boosts properly. View details
    Preview abstract In classic auction theory, reserve prices are known to be effective for improving revenue for the auctioneer against quasi-linear utility maximizing bidders. The introduction of reserve prices, however, usually do not help improve total welfare of the auctioneer and the bidders. In this paper, we focus on value maximizing bidders with return on spend constraints---a paradigm that has drawn considerable attention recently as more advertisers adopt auto-bidding algorithms in advertising platforms---and show that the introduction of reserve prices has a novel impact on the market. Namely, by choosing reserve prices appropriately the auctioneer can improve not only the total revenue but also the total welfare. Our results also demonstrate that reserve prices are robust to bidder types, i.e., reserve prices work well for different bidder types, such as value maximizers and utility maximizers, without using bidder type information. We generalize these results for a variety of auction mechanisms such as VCG, GSP, and first-price auctions. Moreover, we show how to combine these results with additive boosts to improve the welfare of the outcomes of the auction further. Finally, we complement our theoretical observations with an empirical study confirming the effectiveness of these ideas using data from online advertising auctions. View details
    Preview abstract Internet advertisers are increasingly adopting automated bidders to buy advertising opportunities. Automated bidders simplify the procurement process by allowing advertisers to specify their goals and then bidding on their behalf in the auctions that are used to sell advertising slots. One popular goal adopted by advertisers is to maximize their clicks (or conversions) subject to a return on spend (RoS) constraint, which imposes that the ratio of total value to total spend is greater than a target ratio specified by the advertisers. The emergence of automated bidders brings into question whether the standard mechanisms used to sold ads are still effective in this new landscape. Thus motivated, in this paper we study the problem of characterizing optimal mechanisms for selling an item to one of multiple agents with return on spend constraints when either the values or target ratios are private. We consider two objectives for the agents: value maximization, which is becoming the prevalent objective in advertising markets, and utility maximization, which is the de facto paradigm in economic theory. Our goal is to understand the impact of the agents' private information and their objectives on the seller's revenue, and determine whether the first-best revenue, which is the optimal revenue without private information, is achievable. View details