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01-09-2012 | Issue 3/2012

Marketing Letters 3/2012

On the optimal number of advertising slots in a generalized second-price auction

Journal:
Marketing Letters > Issue 3/2012
Authors:
Alex Kim, Subramanian Balachander, Karthik Kannan

Abstract

In search advertising, a search engine uses a generalized second-price auction to sell advertising slots adjacent to search results on its webpage. In this paper, we study an interesting question related to the design of the generalized second-price auction: how should a search engine strategically decide on the number of advertising slots? To answer this question, we analyze the implication of varying the number of slots in a base model in which the click-through rates are assumed to be independent of the number of slots. When deciding the number of slots, we find that a search engine’s profit is based on two counteracting factors: the incremental clicks from an extra slot and the influence of the extra slot on advertisers’ payments per click. Our analysis characterizes the conditions for optimality of the number of slots and the implications of different distributions for advertiser valuations. We also extend the base model to allow for attraction and cannibalization of clicks from existing slots by new ad slots and show how such effects affect the optimal number of slots. Our overall results show that search engines need to optimize the number of ad slots offered for auction in order to maximize profit.

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