Click-Through Rate (CTR) prediction serves as a fundamental component in online advertising. A common practice is to train a CTR model on advertisement (ad) impressions with user feedback. Since ad impressions are purposely selected by the model itself, their distribution differs from the inference distribution and thus exhibits sample selection bias (SSB) that affects model performance. Existing studies on SSB mainly employ sample re-weighting techniques which suffer from high variance and poor model calibration. Another line of work relies on costly uniform data that is inadequate to train industrial models. Thus mitigating SSB in industrial models with a uniform-data-free framework is worth exploring. Fortunately, many platforms display mixed results of organic items (i.e., recommendations) and sponsored items (i.e., ads) to users, where impressions of ads and recommendations are selected by different systems but share the same user decision rationales. Based on the above characteristics, we propose to leverage recommendations samples as a free lunch to mitigate SSB for ads CTR model (Rec4Ad). After elaborating data augmentation, Rec4Ad learns disentangled representations with alignment and decorrelation modules for enhancement. When deployed in Taobao display advertising system, Rec4Ad achieves substantial gains in key business metrics, with a lift of up to +6.6\% CTR and +2.9\% RPM.
Despite the development of ranking optimization techniques, the pointwise model remains the dominating approach for click-through rate (CTR) prediction. It can be attributed to the calibration ability of the pointwise model since the prediction can be viewed as the click probability. In practice, a CTR prediction model is also commonly assessed with the ranking ability, for which prediction models based on ranking losses (e.g., pairwise or listwise loss) usually achieve better performances than the pointwise loss. Previous studies have experimented with a direct combination of the two losses to obtain the benefit from both losses and observed an improved performance. However, previous studies break the meaning of output logit as the click-through rate, which may lead to sub-optimal solutions. To address this issue, we propose an approach that can Jointly optimize the Ranking and Calibration abilities (JRC for short). JRC improves the ranking ability by contrasting the logit value for the sample with different labels and constrains the predicted probability to be a function of the logit subtraction. We further show that JRC consolidates the interpretation of logits, where the logits model the joint distribution. With such an interpretation, we prove that JRC approximately optimizes the contextualized hybrid discriminative-generative objective. Experiments on public and industrial datasets and online A/B testing show that our approach improves both ranking and calibration abilities. Since May 2022, JRC has been deployed on the display advertising platform of Alibaba and has obtained significant performance improvements.
The development of personalized recommendation has significantly improved the accuracy of information matching and the revenue of e-commerce platforms. Recently, it has 2 trends: 1) recommender systems must be trained timely to cope with ever-growing new products and ever-changing user interests from online marketing and social network; 2) SOTA recommendation models introduce DNN modules to improve prediction accuracy. Traditional CPU-based recommender systems cannot meet these two trends, and GPU- centric training has become a trending approach. However, we observe that GPU devices in training recommender systems are underutilized, and they cannot attain an expected throughput improvement as what it has achieved in CV and NLP areas. This issue can be explained by two characteristics of these recommendation models: First, they contain up to a thousand input feature fields, introducing fragmentary and memory-intensive operations; Second, the multiple constituent feature interaction submodules introduce substantial small-sized compute kernels. To remove this roadblock to the development of recommender systems, we propose a novel framework named PICASSO to accelerate the training of recommendation models on commodity hardware. Specifically, we conduct a systematic analysis to reveal the bottlenecks encountered in training recommendation models. We leverage the model structure and data distribution to unleash the potential of hardware through our packing, interleaving, and caching optimization. Experiments show that PICASSO increases the hardware utilization by an order of magnitude on the basis of SOTA baselines and brings up to 6x throughput improvement for a variety of industrial recommendation models. Using the same hardware budget in production, PICASSO on average shortens the walltime of daily training tasks by 7 hours, significantly reducing the delay of continuous delivery.
Traditional industrial recommenders are usually trained on a single business domain and then serve for this domain. In large commercial platforms, however, it is often the case that the recommenders need to make click-through rate (CTR) predictions for multiple business domains. Different domains have overlapping user groups and items, thus exist commonalities. Since the specific user group may be different and the user behaviors may change within a specific domain, different domains also have distinctions. The distinctions result in different domain-specific data distributions, which makes it hard for a single shared model to work well on all domains. To address the problem, we present Star Topology Adaptive Recommender (STAR), where one model is learned to serve all domains effectively. Concretely, STAR has the star topology, which consists of the shared centered parameters and domain-specific parameters. The shared parameters are used to learn commonalities of all domains and the domain-specific parameters capture domain distinction for more refined prediction. Given requests from different domains, STAR can adapt its parameters conditioned on the domain. The experimental result from production data validates the superiority of the proposed STAR model. Up to now, STAR has been deployed in the display advertising system of Alibaba, obtaining averaging 8.0% improvement on CTR and 6.0% on RPM (Revenue Per Mille).