Quad's Minneapolis ad agency stages 'Black Lives Matter' walkout

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An advertising agency’s parent company has changed a rule forbidding employees from using “Black Lives Matter” in social media posts after 179 workers in the city where George Floyd was killed walked off the job.

Employees at Minneapolis-based Periscope told the Star Tribune that they wanted to cite the movement to show solidarity with Black and racial-justice protesters but were repeatedly told no by Quad, the parent marketing company, based in Sussex, Wisconsin.

After Thursday's walkout, Quad agreed to give Periscope editorial independence over its social media posts and promised to release employment data by race and sex. Leaders also said they would undergo diversity training and hire more people of color.

Quad CEO Joel Quadracci apologized to Periscope employees and clients in a statement and said the company had been “slow to communicate” its commitment to the cause.

“Periscope in Minneapolis has witnessed firsthand the nation’s reawakening to persistent, systemic racism,” he said. “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.”

Nathan Young, who moved from Seattle in March to join Periscope as group strategy director, said he was shocked when Quadracci ordered him to remove “Black Lives Matter” from a Periscope statement addressing systemic racism.

“The fact that as a billionaire white CEO of a company, you literally told your Black employee — one who lives four blocks from where George Floyd was murdered — to delete the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ from a statement of support, is a shocking dereliction of duty as a leader,” Young said. “The wound that created never fully healed.”

Young, Periscope’s three other Black employees, and one LGBT worker walked off the job in protest Wednesday. On Thursday, the rest of the office walked out too. Periscope has 16 people of color on its 179-member staff.

Chief Creative Officer Peter Nicholson said Quad’s initial demands were “particularly hurtful to our people of color and to all 179 of us because of the situation we were all experiencing” in the wake of Floyd’s killing.