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Journal Article

Multistage intermediation in display advertising

Manufacturing and Service Operations Management 23 (3): 714–730
Santiago R. Balseiro, Ozan Candogan, Huseyin Gurkan (2021)
Management sciences, decision sciences and quantitative methods
Intermediary problems, mechanism design, internet advertising, extensive form games, second-price auction, multi-stage intermediation
We consider a setting where online advertisers seek to acquire impressions from an advertising exchange through a multi-tier network of intermediaries, and study the mechanisms offered by the ad exchange and intermediaries when the advertisers’ values are private. As opposed to traditional manufacturer/retailer settings, intermediaries in display advertising auction off contingent goods which they only purchase when downstream buyers have signaled interest. Thus motivated, we determine how intermediaries should bid on behalf of their customers in the mechanism of an upstream intermediary and study how the structure of the intermediation network affects the profits of its participants. We provide a game theoretic model to study the mechanisms offered by the ad exchange and intermediaries within a practically relevant class of mechanisms. We characterize a subgame perfect equilibrium of the game among intermediaries and the seller, and show that the equilibrium mechanisms have a simple and appealing structure: intermediaries bid the virtual value associated with the maximum downstream report in the upstream intermediary’s mechanism, whenever this quantity is positive. We show that economic incentives are not necessarily aligned along the network and the position in the intermediation network has a significant impact on the profits of the intermediaries. Besides, we analyze the impact of different network structures on the seller’s revenue and investigate whether intermediaries have an incentive to merge horizontally or vertically.
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