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Contextual Reserve Price Optimization in Auctions

by   Joey Huchette, et al.

We study the problem of learning a linear model to set the reserve price in order to maximize expected revenue in an auction, given contextual information. First, we show that it is not possible to solve this problem in polynomial time unless the Exponential Time Hypothesis fails. Second, we present a strong mixed-integer programming (MIP) formulation for this problem, which is capable of exactly modeling the nonconvex and discontinuous expected reward function. Moreover, we show that this MIP formulation is ideal (the strongest possible formulation) for the revenue function. Since it can be computationally expensive to exactly solve the MIP formulation, we also study the performance of its linear programming (LP) relaxation. We show that, unfortunately, in the worst case the objective gap of the linear programming relaxation can be O(n) times larger than the optimal objective of the actual problem, where n is the number of samples. Finally, we present computational results, showcasing that the mixed-integer programming formulation, along with its linear programming relaxation, are able to superior both the in-sample performance and the out-of-sample performance of the state-of-the-art algorithms on both real and synthetic datasets.


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