Budget constraints are ubiquitous in online advertisement auctions. To manage these constraints and smooth out the expenditure across auctions, the bidders (or the platform on behalf of them) often employ pacing: each bidder is assigned a pacing multiplier between zero and one, and her bid on each item is multiplicatively scaled down by the pacing multiplier. This naturally gives rise to a game in which each bidder strategically selects a multiplier. The appropriate notion of equilibrium in this game is known as a pacing equilibrium. In this work, we show that the problem of finding an approximate pacing equilibrium is PPAD-complete for second-price auctions. This resolves an open question of Conitzer et al. [Conitzer V, Kroer C, Sodomka E, Stier-Moses NE (2022a) Multiplicative pacing equilibria in auction markets. Oper. Res. 70(2):963–989]. As a consequence of our hardness result, we show that the tâtonnement-style budget-management dynamics introduced by Borgs et al. [Borgs C, Chayes J, Immorlica N, Jain K, Etesami O, Mahdian M (2007) Dynamics of bid optimization in online advertisement auctions. Proc. 16th Internat. Conf. World Wide Web (ACM, New York), 531–540] are unlikely to converge efficiently for repeated second-price auctions. This disproves a conjecture by Borgs et al. [Borgs C, Chayes J, Immorlica N, Jain K, Etesami O, Mahdian M (2007) Dynamics of bid optimization in online advertisement auctions. Proc. 16th Internat. Conf. World Wide Web (ACM, New York), 531–540], under the assumption that the complexity class PPAD is not equal to P. Our hardness result also implies the existence of a refinement of supply-aware market equilibria which is hard to compute with simple linear utilities. Funding: This work was supported by National Science Foundation (CCF-1703925, IIS-1838154).

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