Independent Agency Periscope Acquired by Printing Company Quad/Graphics for $132 Million

2 midwestern brands look to create a unique offering

President and CEO Elizabeth Ross will become president of agency services for Quad/Graphics. Periscope
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Minneapolis-based full service agency Periscope announced today it has agreed to be acquired by Quad/Graphics, a printing company based in Sussex, Wis.

Quad/Graphics, which describes itself as “the second-largest provider of print and related multichannel solutions in the Americas,” will buy the agency in an all-cash deal worth $132 million. The deal was finalized Monday night and will officially close in 2019.

Periscope president and CEO Elizabeth Ross told Adweek the agency was in the market for buyers after founder and chairman Bill Simpson, who has not been directly involved in the business for several years, decided to retire.

"We are creating Periscope times five."
Elizabeth Ross, president of agency services, Quad/Graphics

According to Ross, the 24-year-old shop considered a number of buyers, ranging from traditional holding companies to consultancies and “new players,” before receiving the right offer from Quad/Graphics, which was looking for ways to expand its services in response to increased demand from clients.

“We are redefining the future of integrated marketing at a time of substantial disruption when clients are looking for less complexity, greater transparency and accountability from their business partners,” said Quad/Graphics president, chairman and CEO Joel Quadracci, who refers to his company’s new “end-to-end marketing platform” as Quad 3.0, in a statement.

Simpson added in a statement, “Our companies share a common vision for the future of integrated marketing and operate with very similar values.”

Quad/Graphics, which opened in 1971 and employs more than 22,000 people in North and South America and Europe, is primarily a commercial printer but recently expanded into media planning and buying and design services. It has not previously worked on digital, social and broadcast campaigns like those Periscope creates.

We aren’t just being added to their portfolio; we are leading their creative marketing revolution,” Ross said. “We are creating Periscope times five.”

The agency CEO, who spent most of her career at holding company shops like Digitas, DDB and JWT, said she will become president of agency services at Quad/Graphics and that Periscope will retain both its individual brand and its five offices from Minneapolis to Hong Kong. She noted that the existing management structure “will continue as we figure out the integration of this entire organization.”

She also said Periscope, with more than 500 employees, will technically remain part of an independent company and continue pitching for new business. Quad/Graphics is both publicly traded and family controlled via an 80 percent trading trust, meaning the group will have greater flexibility than it would as part of a holding company structure.

Periscope will lead the marketing services arm of Quad/Graphics rather than function as an separate unit. The two businesses will operate as one and share all clients.

“It’s independence with a capital I,” Ross said.

The agency’s current clients include Target, Google, Walgreens, Petco and Trolli.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.