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Incrementality Bidding via Reinforcement Learning under Mixed and Delayed Rewards

Ashwinkumar Badanidiyuru Varadaraja · Zhe Feng · Tianxi Li · Haifeng Xu

Hall J (level 1) #807

Keywords: [ Incrementality Bidding ] [ Reinforcement Learning ] [ Learning to Bid ]

Abstract: Incrementality, which measures the causal effect of showing an ad to a potential customer (e.g. a user in an internet platform) versus not, is a central object for advertisers in online advertising platforms. This paper investigates the problem of how an advertiser can learn to optimize the bidding sequence in an online manner \emph{without} knowing the incrementality parameters in advance. We formulate the offline version of this problem as a specially structured episodic Markov Decision Process (MDP) and then, for its online learning counterpart, propose a novel reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm with regret at most $\widetilde{O}(H^2\sqrt{T})$, which depends on the number of rounds $H$ and number of episodes $T$, but does not depend on the number of actions (i.e., possible bids). A fundamental difference between our learning problem from standard RL problems is that the realized reward feedback from conversion incrementality is \emph{mixed} and \emph{delayed}. To handle this difficulty we propose and analyze a novel pairwise moment-matching algorithm to learn the conversion incrementality, which we believe is of independent interest.

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