A recurring theme in recent computer science literature is that proper design of signaling schemes is a crucial aspect of effective mechanisms aiming to optimize social welfare or revenue. One of the research endeavors of this line of work is understanding the algorithmic and computational complexity of designing efficient signaling schemes. In reality, however, information is typically not held by a central authority but is distributed among multiple sources (third-party "mediators"), a fact that dramatically changes the strategic and combinatorial nature of the signaling problem. In this article, we introduce distributed signaling games, while using display advertising as a canonical example for introducing this foundational framework. A distributed signaling game may be a pure coordination game (i.e., a distributed optimization task) or a non-cooperative game. In the context of pure coordination games, we show a wide gap between the computational complexity of the centralized and distributed signaling problems, proving that distributed coordination on revenue-optimal signaling is a much harder problem than its "centralized" counterpart. In the context of non-cooperative games, the outcome generated by the mediators' signals may have different value to each. The reason for that is typically the desire of the auctioneer to align the incentives of the mediators with his own by a compensation relative to the marginal benefit from their signals. We design a mechanism for this problem via a novel application of Shapley's value and show that it possesses some interesting properties; in particular, it always admits a pure Nash equilibrium, and it never decreases the revenue of the auctioneer (relative to his a priori revenue when there are no mediators).

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7
JournalACM Transactions on Economics and Computation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2020


  • Shapley value
  • Signaling
  • distributed mechanism design

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing
  • Computational Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Distributed Signaling Games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this