Envy, Regret, and Social Welfare Loss

Published in The Web Conference, 2020

Incentive compatibility (IC) is one of the most fundamental properties of an auction mechanism, including those used for online advertising. Recent methods by Feng et al. and Lahaie et al. show that counterfactual runs of the auction mechanism with different bids can be used to determine whether an auction is IC. In this paper we show that a similar result can be obtained by looking at the advertisers’ envy, which can be computed with one single execution of the auction. We introduce two metrics to evaluate the incentive-compatibility of an auction: IC-Regret and IC-Envy. For position auction environments, we show that for a large class of pricing schemes (which includes e.g. VCG and GSP), IC-Envy ≥ IC-Regret (and IC-Envy = IC-Regret when bids are distinct). We consider non-separable discounts in the Ad Types environment of Colini-Baldeschi et al. where we show that for a generalization of GSP also IC-Envy ≥ IC-Regret. Our final theoretical result is that in all these settings IC-Envy be used to bound the loss in social welfare due advertiser misreports. Finally, we show that IC-Envy is useful as a feature to predict IC-Regret in auction environments beyond the ones for which we show theoretical results. In particular, using IC-Envy yields better results than training models using only price and value features.