RBL Spotlight: Marissa Nance, CEO of Native Tongue Communications

(Marissa Nance)

Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like, Marissa Nance with us.

Marissa Nance is the CEO of Native Tongue Communications, the nation’s only minority + women-owned business enterprises-led marketing and media agency. Marissa and the NTC team balance their creative prowess with patented and proprietary media measurement and distribution as they provide cross-cultural media strategy, investment (including programmatic), marketing strategy, brand development and creative assets.

Additionally, they expertly blend DE&I with marketing, media, and content knowledge, to create impactful approaches to any of their client’s diversity & inclusion needs — all addressed using the pillars of social equity as a benchmark.

Marissa endeavors to authentically connect her clients to their consumers at the deepest levels through the lens of diversity. Clients have included McDonald’s, Clorox, Nike, Microsoft, FedEx (Have you seen Cast Away? Her conception!) and more. 

Let’s meet Marissa:

What’s your origin story?

I really feel like who I am to this day is shaped by my childhood and upbringing. I was raised by my father, a former athlete, who taught me the importance of teamwork and focus. Also, my mother was instrumental in helping me understand perseverance and hope.

Finally, I was really fortunate to have not one but five grandparents at one point. Each of them taught me unique values and experiences. When you add up that, you get to the me who I am today. I like to think all of that is how I was able to step out after 30 years with Omnicom and found Native Tongue Communications, the first and only minority and female certified media agency to exist.

How did you get into your industry?

I went to the greatest school of all-time (Howard University…HU!) and there I networked with some of the best and brightest our marketing, advertising and branded entertainment industry could offer.

This included the iconic Judy Jackson who was the person to pull me into Omnicom for my first (and only) job. I stayed with them for just about 30 years.

Who were your mentors?

Too many to name. I’ll focus on my family who has shaped my life views. Namely, my 99 ½-year-old grandmother, who still makes it a point to keep me on the right track!

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

I keep moving. I duck, I kneel, sometimes I pause, but I have managed to keep moving forward for many decades at this point.

What drives you to create?

Ignorance. Ignorance against me. Ignorance against my community. Ignorance against my people as a whole. 

What TV series or movies are portrayed powerful, inspirational black images in 2021?

The Netflix docu-series High on the Hog in which food writer Stephen Satterfield traces the origins of African-American cuisine, with through lines from Africa to Texas.

Totally riveting. Also, not exactly 2021 content but something I recently watched — They’ve Gotta’ Have Us, also on Netflix, a terrific documentary that spotlights the rise of black actors and filmmakers in Hollywood.

What is the biggest challenge to Black people in your industry?

Am I allowed to respond that, with all respect, I’m so tired of this question?  THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS THAT WE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE. I don’t want to give it energy. We talk about this in circles. Can we shift the question to be: What is one simple step you would take to make a positive impact for Black people in your industry? And by the way, that would be funding. For education, talent and resources. FUNDING!

REELated: Read about others on The Reel Black List

How has having the superpower of your blackness helped you?

I said to someone the other day, I would not want to be born anyone else in the world other than what I am, a Black woman! I think our superpower is genetic resilience, handed down through generations. That, I believe, is the “secret sauce” of my people.

If black culture is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?

It’s funny, I’ve never stopped to think of one. I really was taught, “can’t stop, won’t stop.” I am hit with so many challenges daily, but I just try to keep moving, dodging that kryptonite. That said, I do not like spiders!

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?

I love all things mid-century modern, so anytime I can wander vintage shops or estate sales (pre-covid) are fun for me. I enjoy cooking in the kitchen with my husband. We have a weekly ritual of at least one meal prepared with “jazz, love & wine.” Of course, any and all of my available attention goes to our boxer, T-bone.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?

I hope NTC and I are continuing to service our audiences and communities, ensuring that our clients make those authentic consumer connections daily. I also hope I am enjoying life with my husband and my “fur child.”

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