NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords

Benjamin Edelman, Michael Ostrovsky, Michael Schwarz

NBER Working Paper No. 11765
Issued in November 2005
NBER Program(s):   IO

We investigate the "generalized second price" auction (GSP), a new mechanism which is used by search engines to sell online advertising that most Internet users encounter daily. GSP is tailored to its unique environment, and neither the mechanism nor the environment have previously been studied in the mechanism design literature. Although GSP looks similar to the Vickrey-Clarke-Groves (VCG) mechanism, its properties are very different. In particular, unlike the VCG mechanism, GSP generally does not have an equilibrium in dominant strategies, and truth-telling is not an equilibrium of GSP. To analyze the properties of GSP in a dynamic environment, we describe the generalized English auction that corresponds to the GSP and show that it has a unique equilibrium. This is an ex post equilibrium that results in the same payoffs to all players as the dominant strategy equilibrium of VCG.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11765

Published: Benjamin Edelman & Michael Ostrovsky & Michael Schwarz, 2007. "Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second-Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 242-259, March. citation courtesy of

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