Just five months ago, he and his Grey Advertising client Procter & Gamble Co. shocked the Web world by insisting they would buy Web ads only on a click-through basis, instead of paying for impressions, the commonly accepted currency. The policy, under which the advertiser pays if a user clicks on an ad, caused a firestorm of debate, with some sites saying they would refuse P&G's money.
Now, however, Mr. Dowling is getting his way. After a few Web search engines-Yahoo! and Web
Crawler-took ads on P&G's terms, others have quietly followed suit. Every Grey Interactive client is now buying only on click-through, Mr. Dowling said.
"The key focus of our model is to go above and beyond banners," Mr. Dowling said. "You can't get a valuable or comprehensive message across with a banner or button format."
As Grey's chief Internet media executive overseeing Web ad budgets from Sprint Business, Seagram and Glaxo-Wellcome in addition to P&G, Mr. Dowling is a key player in the Web world.
Though he recognizes the click-through policy is a tough pill for Web sites to swallow, it's part of a plan to shove advertising out of the banner mentality entirely.
"It's very important that we do see new ad models develop," he said. The only way to do that, he added, is if Web sites, marketers and agencies cooperate.
What's next? Mr. Dowling sees opportunity for sponsored content, where a Web site works with an advertiser to create a deep information center. Also high on his list: sponsored chats.
"If there's a frame around the chat area that we could put our message into...that could be enough," he said.
Betcha didn't know: Mr. Dowling is a baseball fanatic who played college ball at UConn.