Millennials Unhappy With Businessweek Campaign Mocking Them

Deny that they're lazy

Bloomberg Businessweek took an interesting approach in its effort to court millennials when it shamed them for still living at home with mom and dad and then invited them to subscribe, and the backlash has begun.

Many of the reactions to the campaign have focused on its insensitivity to the economic challenges facing millennials and the implication that they’re lazy. (Businessweek acknowledges in small type at the bottom of the campaign home page that "the woeful state of the economy is not their fault" and that the intent is "not to blame them," but that message apparently was overshadowed by the rest of the campaign.) 

“Imagine being 22, crushed under student loan debt, embarrassed about not being able to find a job or start your adult life and being served a pithy e-card that gleefully announces that your family thinks you’re a failure,” wrote J. Maureen Henderson on “Now imagine wanting to support the business that came up with the idea for the cards in the first place. That’s just poor marketing strategy on Bloomberg’s part.”

“The boomers have dropped a debt laden atom bomb on the millennials and others and for them to comment is offensive to say the least,” wrote one commentator, Edwin.

"There no jobs to get," wrote mje. "There are three adults to one job open. That is typical for a recessionary period. However, the economy has been expanding for at least 47 months.”

Others took issue with the implication that Gen Yers are just freeloaders. “My friends have plans to move out in the months/year; many have been able to make moves in the past few months. Many of them pay money to their parents to help with utilities and food costs,” wrote Shelby. “Their parents know their kids are being responsible by living at home and planning for their futures in the best way possible (while trying to save for a place of their own AND pay off student loans at the same time).”

The “Gets You Ahead” campaign offers e-gift cards that parents can send to their Gen Y kids with 12 free issues of Businessweek. The cards have messages encouraging the deadbeats to find their own place, like “Our American dream is for you to move out” and “You’re a drain on this country’s economy, sweetie pie.” It's not been a good time for millennials; the campaign comes on the heels of a Time magazine cover story that accused millennials of being lazy narcissists.

Bloomberg contended that the campaign has gotten a big positive reaction, although it didn't provide numbers. “We have been very pleased that tens of thousands of people have responded positively to ‘BBW Gets You Ahead,’ showing their appreciation for the campaign by their shares on social media and actively taking the offer to sample Bloomberg Businessweek,” emailed president Paul Bascobert. 

Jake Katz, general manager of youth market research firm YPulse, said the campaign didn't entirely miss the mark. He said Businessweek was smart to use word-of-mouth marketing in this case, given that today's twenty-somethings actually will take advice from their parents. But while more college grads have moved back in with their parents, they're not necessarily unwelcome guests.

“Where they missed the mark is pitching it as, you guys are annoying mom and dad by being at home,” he told Adweek. “That’s not the case. Mom and dad are not pushing them out of the nest. Mom and dad may not have been planning to financially support their kids … but that separation is not there.”