At least five employees at Minneapolis agency Periscope walked out today in objection to the actions of parent company Quad.
The walkout was created to protest two issues: alleged interference by its parent company in Periscope’s social media communications about the Black Lives Matter movement and staffer concerns that Quad was releasing deceptive data about its employee diversity.
Quad, a Wisconsin-based printing company, acquired the formerly independent Periscope in 2018. Reached by Adweek today, the company said it is addressing the employee concerns, and after initially taking what it described as “appropriate time for assessment,” has allowed the agency to post about Black Lives Matter.
But Periscope chief strategy officer Nathan Young is among the agency employees refusing to return to work until they believe Quad has taken tangible steps to address diversity at the agency. Specifically, Young said, the participants in the walkout are demanding that Quad:
• Make diversity and inclusion training mandatory for all levels of leadership and management.
• Stop interfering with Periscope’s “editorial independence” in terms of content it releases online and elsewhere.
• Release full, accurate diversity data for Periscope.
Young recently co-founded 600 & Rising, a nonprofit dedicated to the advocacy and advancement of Black talent in advertising following the publication of an open letter to industry leadership signed by over 600 Black ad professionals that called for meaningful action to address systemic racism in advertising.
Young told Adweek that the original issue with Quad emerged when the company prevented Periscope from using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in social media posts in the wake of Minneapolis resident George Floyd’s killing by a police officer on May 25. Young said he drafted a statement in response to Floyd’s killing but that the response was held up for a week and watered down, with Quad forcing Periscope to remove the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
Young said he attempted to explain the importance of including Black Lives Matter to Quad CEO Joel Quadracci. But Young alleged Quadracci refused to budge on the issue, citing a personal objection to the phrase, which he associated with attempts to defund the police, according to Young’s description of the conversation.
Quad evp Eric Ashworth told Adweek that the company’s early resistance to include “Black Lives Matter” in the agency’s statements on the Floyd killing was due to Quad leadership wanting to take time in understanding the issues involved before connecting Periscope publicly with the movement.
“There was a desire at Quad to better understand what [Black Lives Matter] stands for, [and] aligning behind it was something Quad took seriously and wanted to make sure the appropriate time for assessment was given,” said Ashworth. “We’ve always been in support of the term ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The activities of what does that stand for as a social movement is what we were trying to get an understanding of.”
“We will [now] be using the hasthtag #BlackLivesMatter,” he added. “We appreciate what it stands for as a movement and as a phrase.”
Following the publication of this story, Young Tweeted that Ashworth personally directed him to delete the phrase “Black Lives Matter” from a Periscope statement and provided an image of an email from Ashworth informing him and other recipients at Periscope that “until Defund The Police efforts get better defined, we cannot support Black Lives Matter publicly via Periscope in any form.”
Walkout participants say Periscope is not at fault
Young stressed that Periscope had been supportive of employees’ attempts to address systemic racism and moved toward more progressive diversity and inclusion goals.
“Periscope leadership is not to blame here,” he said, calling agency leaders “committed and enthusiastic” about these efforts.