Winner: Marissa Nance, founder and CEO, Native Tongue Communications

Used with permission.

Throughout her 30-plus-year career in advertising, Marissa Nance has fought to make the industry a more diverse, equal and inclusive place. This mission culminated in her decision to leave Omnicom in 2019 — when she was one of the agency’s only Black, female managing directors — to start her own agency.

That’s how Native Tongue Communications (NTC), the first and only minority- and female-certified media agency, was born. NTC focuses on creating impactful digital campaigns while also carving out the time and space needed to open doors for talented BIPOC individuals who want to thrive in an industry that’s all too often insular and white. Because these organizational components enhance each other — a diverse workforce leads to fresh, compelling work — Nance has managed to seamlessly build a top-tier agency that challenges industry norms while also producing excellent campaigns for a roster of A-list clients including Amazon, Pine-Sol, Burt’s Bees, Peanuts, Nike, Microsoft, Intel, Eli Lilly, McDonald’s and Clorox.

For example, on behalf of Peanuts Worldwide, NTC orchestrated the launch of the Armstrong Project, an initiative that established $200,000 in endowments for students studying arts, communications, animation or entertainment at two historically Black colleges and universities, Howard University and Hampton University. To date, dozens of students have applied to the program, which has contributed to an increase in student engagement in the animation and illustration majors at both schools.

Honorable mention: Lucas Bongioanni, executive creative director, The Community NY