Nathan Young, group strategy director at Minneapolis-based Periscope and co-founder of 600&Rising, announced this morning on Twitter that he and the three other Black employees at the agency, as well as one LGBTQ ally, had walked off their jobs in protest over parent company Quad/Graphics' actions regarding social justice in recent weeks. By the afternoon, at least eight others had joined them.
Sussex, Wisconsin-based Quad earlier this year ranked No. 16 on Ad Age’s list of World’s Largest Agency Companies and No. 21 on its list of World’s Largest Consolidated Agency Networks. The company made its name as a printing giant but has broadened its capabilities into marketing with acquisitions in recent years, including that of Periscope for $132 million in 2019.
Young and his colleagues’ complaint centers largely around what Young says was Quad’s aversion to using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in messages addressing the current unrest. He also takes issue with how the company failed to fully disclose accurate diversity data in response to “Commit to Change,” the initiative that 600&Rising introduced last month in an effort to get the industry to be more transparent with staff and leadership numbers with regard to employees of color.
On Young’s Twitter thread, he wrote that at the beginning of June, he had drafted a statement on behalf of Periscope responding to the death of Geoge Floyd and asserting the agency’s plans to take swift action. He said the agency team was “unanimous” in moving forward with the statement, yet Quad had intervened. “Not only did they soften or strike every major provision in the statement and plan, they had me physically delete the words Black Lives Matter from the statement I personally drafted,” he continued. “This was deeply painful to me as a Black man and civil rights leader.”