Arnold Hires Talent Chief From Financial Sector

Patti Clifford starts next week

If the ad industry gets a failing grade for nurturing talent, why stay inside “church” to find a new talent chief? That’s the premise behind Arnold's latest top-level hire: global chief talent officer Patti Clifford.

Clifford, like new Draftfcb talent chief Cynthia Augustine, has never worked in advertising. She spent 17 years at Dun & Bradstreet, rising to chief human resources officer before leaving in June 2010. Since then, she has worked as a consultant.

At Arnold, Clifford, 47, will focus on instituting best practices for retaining and developing staffers—an area that agencies generally have neglected in recent years, leading to talent erosion that Arnold global CEO Andrew Benett documented in research he presented to the 4A’s last year. Clifford will fulfill the same role at Arnold parent company Havas Worldwide as well.

In the research, Benett also found that in contrast to advertising, financial services is among the industries that rank best in class in talent management, which further explains his interest in Clifford, who starts next week. She’ll be based in New York and report to Benett.

“She’s a practitioner, not just a theorist,” Benett said, adding, “There are not practitioners like this” in the ad industry.

It’s that outsider’s perspective that Benett sought in filling the post. And while Clifford is new to the industry, she intuitively understands why it’s so porous when it comes to talent.

“It’s an easy thing to put aside when you get busy,” Clifford said. But, she added, “You need to focus on this just like you focus on revenue. It’s a [business] driver. It should have the same level of dialogue and conversation in your senior leader meetings as financial measures that you’re watching.”

Clifford’s position is new. The agency’s director of human resources, Melissa Morgante, remains in place but now reports to Clifford. Morgante is based in Arnold’s Boston office.