Clift to Take on Broad, Challenging Role at AOL

Google’s former agency liaison has a new position lined up for her at AOL. Starting later this month, Erin Clift will take up the newly-created role of senior VP-global sales development at the ever-evolving firm. The task is a challenging and broad-reaching one: develop stronger ad offerings, convince agencies that AOL is a good place to spend more of their ad dollars, and generate more revenue worldwide.

“We want to have a real focus and real ownership of the businesses that we have great content in, great insights in, and get great distribution in,” said Jeff Levick, head of global advertising and strategy at AOL. Clift will report to Levick, also a former Google exec who moved to AOL recently. Exactly how Clift will sharpen AOL’s focus and ownership remains to be seen. “It’s too early to say,” Levick told ClickZ News.

Essentially, the goal is to define what AOL means to advertisers and translate that to them. That could mean crafting custom programs for agencies, for example.

Clift, who helped guide Google’s Agency Relations, should assist AOL in its mission to tighten its relationships with agencies and their holding companies. “We want to take some of the experience Erin built over the years, but make it relevant to AOL and our agency group,” added Levick. He himself moved to AOL after working with Google since 2001, most recently as VP industry development and marketing, the Americas. Clift was with Google for more than seven years, according to a Google spokesperson.

Clift will assess her need for new staff, said Levick, who said she’ll have close interaction with Mark Ellis, AOL VP Sales, North America. While Ellis will handle day-to-day relationships with agencies and advertisers, Clift will “focus on the market 6-12, 18-24 months out,” said Levick. “These are very complementary roles.”

Clift’s hire follows not only Levick’s transition from Google, but that of recently-named AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who moved from the search giant in March. Clift will end her days at Google this week, and is working with its North American VP of Ad Sales Penry Price to ease the changeover. Price will remain in his role, heading agency and industry relations at Google, according to a company spokesperson.

As another Google exec leaves the firm for a competitor, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly is investigating the hiring practices of technology firms including Google and Yahoo. The implication is that executive moves among top tech competitors could infringe upon antitrust and collusion-related laws and regulations.

AOL’s advertising business has experienced steady upheaval in the past couple years. In particular, the Platform-A ad division has seen several chiefs. Levick is now in charge, as the company as a whole undergoes major change. Time Warner announced late last month it will separate from AOL.

Clift will be based in New York, though most likely she will find herself globetrotting to fulfill her mission of creating global revenue growth for AOL. She is also charged with boosting AOL’s presence in industry trade groups such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

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