Industry Execs Then and Now

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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