It’s hard to imagine, but digital agency and media executives were at some point gawky adolescents. Digiday decided to ask several to mine their attics for old yearbooks, long-forgotten prom photos in order to present a retrospective of what these well-known ad execs were like back in high school. Each has included a brief retrospective of those years. Look for future installments of Digiday Then and Now.

Well-Rounded Long Island Boy

David Armano, managing director, Edelman Digital Chicago

I was your classic Long Island boy with a twist. I was part class clown, part jock wannabe (wrestling) and part art nerd. Besides looking like the love child of Ralph Macchcio and one of the New Kids on the Block, I had a close-knit group of friends I hung out with, each of them defying being limited to a single clique. Those were some fun years.


The Would-Be CEO 

Terence Kawaja, CEO, Luma Partners

In high school in Toronto, I was both an overachieving nerd (President of Student Council, Captain of Math League, Chess Team) and comedian (did comedy at school assemblies). In fact, I told jokes in my campaign speech and won by a landslide. Also, I inherited the largest deficit of any student council and left it with the largest surplus.

Going with the In Crowd

James Kiernan, managing director, Zenith Optimedia

I have fond memories of high school. Even then, I was a slave to fashion, and I rocked Z Cavaricci pants and owned an arsenal of colognes, including Drakkar Noir. I graduated in 1993, the very same year as the “Saved by the Bell” and 90120 crew. I wanted to be Brandon Walsh. And when asked by my 10th grade social studies teacher what field I wanted to pursue, I looked him in the eye told him that I wanted to be an ad exec. I must have inhaled too much cologne!

 Emo Before There was Emo

Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group and revenue consultant at Tumblr

Why, oh why did the word “emo” not exist yet? I bought a Dead Can Dance record and told my mother I never needed to buy another record again. She LOL’d. Stephin Merrit once said, “I could dress in black and read Camus. Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth like I was 17.” HOW DID HE KNOW?


The Foreign Exchange Kid

Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer, AKQA

I went to an international boarding school in Switzerland — definitely unusual for a Japanese kid to go all the way to Europe for high school. The first three months were absolutely terrifying because I didn’t really speak English. The school was extremely diverse, with kids from about 70 different countries. I’m an identical twin, and my twin brother went to the same school. Most people – except for our girlfriends, we think — were utterly confused who was who. The way they told us apart was that he was the nice one and I was the mean one. Things haven’t really changed.

The Jewish Boy in Texas

Stephen Goldblatt, executive creative director, Evolution Bureau

I grew up in Plano, Texas. I guess you could say that as a Brooklyn-born Jewish kid named Goldblatt in a sea of blonde-haired Smiths, Johnsons and Wilsons, my fate was to not blend in. That’s not to say I didn’t try. Before embracing my untamable curls, I combed it straight and gelled it solid. I still have that tie.

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