On Wednesday a handful of mostly Black staffers led by Nathan Young walked off their jobs at Minneapolis-based agency Periscope in protest over parent company Quad’s censorship of materials that the agency was preparing related to its support of Black Lives Matter. Today the rest of the agency walked out.
Also today agency parent Quad/Graphics Inc. issued an apology to Periscope employees and clients, and reaffirmed its commitment to help end systemic racism.
At issue was the parent company’s stand on supporting Black Lives Matter. Young, who is group strategy director at the agency and a co-founder of 600 & Rising—the advocacy group of Black advertising pros dedicated to eradicating industry racism—condemned Quad for refusing to let the agency issue a statement in support of Black Lives Matter.
According to Young, who has been keeping readers abreast of the contretemps on his twitter account, Quad indicated BLM was too “political” for a public company like Quad to support. Wrong, Young countered, noting that numerous public companies, like Adland’s major holding companies, have come out in support of the movement. Quad also indicated that it was concerned that BLM was too closely associated with a movement to defund police departments. Wrong again, Young said, arguing that the BLM movement and defunding are separate issues.
Young called out Quad’s stand as “wrongheaded and morally reprehensible.”
And by their actions, his agency colleagues agreed. The agency issued a statement today that read in part:
“At Periscope, we believe Black Lives Matter. Period.
Yesterday, a group of our colleagues walked-off work in protest. We are supportive of these employees and their desired outcome. The reasons behind their actions reflect our beliefs and culture at Periscope.
Following this action, the rest of the agency made its voice heard loud and clear that we need to take the actions necessary to ensure these employees remain a part of the Periscope team. Today, a statement was issued notifying leadership that employees are walking off in solidarity with their peers who started the movement. We are proud of the agency for coming together to rally around this cause.”
Quad, which purchased Periscope for $132.5 million in early 2019, signaled that the agency’s message was received loud and clear. It’s apology was attributed to Quad CEO Joel Quadracci and read in part: “In recent days our Periscope colleagues have made it clear that we as a company failed to act with the urgency, transparency and sensitivity required on this important social issue, and we agree. Quad can and will do better as we move forward on this journey together. Unfortunately we were slow to communicate our position so, today,, I want to unequivocally confirm that Black Lives Matter and apologize for any pain I may have caused our employees, clients and others for not explicitly stating this fact sooner. I am sorry.”
Quadracci also promised that Quad would address demands to support the agency’s “freedom of expression,” and release Periscope’s “full and accurate” diversity data. The firm also pledged to mandate diversity and inclusion training for all Quad employees.
Periscope said staffers would return to work on Monday.