Exploration in Online Advertising Systems with Deep Uncertainty-Aware Learning

Chao Du, Yifan Zeng, Zhifeng Gao, Shuo Yuan, Lining Gao, Ziyan Li, Xiaoqiang Zhu, Jian Xu, Kun Gai

Modern online advertising systems inevitably rely on personalization methods, such as click-through rate (CTR) prediction. Recent progress in CTR prediction enjoys the rich representation capabilities of deep learning and achieves great success in large-scale industrial applications. However, these methods can suffer from lack of exploration. Another line of prior work addresses the exploration-exploitation trade-off problem with contextual bandit methods, which are less studied in the industry recently due to the difficulty in extending their flexibility with deep models. In this paper, we propose a novel Deep Uncertainty-Aware Learning (DUAL) method to learn deep CTR models based on Gaussian processes, which can provide efficient uncertainty estimations along with the CTR predictions while maintaining the flexibility of deep neural networks. By linking the ability to estimate predictive uncertainties of DUAL to well-known bandit algorithms, we further present DUAL-based Ad-ranking strategies to boost up long-term utilities such as the social welfare in advertising systems. Experimental results on several public datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our methods. Remarkably, an online A/B test deployed in the Alibaba display advertising platform shows an $8.2\%$ social welfare improvement and an $8.0\%$ revenue lift.

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