As the economy continues to spiral downward with seemingly no end in sight, the hardest hit industries have had to adapt in kind. Like a Faustian bargain to keep the consumer cycle in motion, the incentives are being offered to any market that might bite.

Automakers like Hyundai are creating agreements like its “Assurance”policy by which the company will cover car payments for up to three months in the event of job loss and, barring a more long-term solution, allow the buyer to return the car if insolvency looms. Distancing itself from the slurry of institutional failures, Bank of America’s latest campaign touts its commitment to “Strength. Stability. Opportunity”. The real estate industry no longer flaunts the lush language of luxury, highlighting instead price reductions to lure cautious buyers back to the market. Even Wendy’s national ad campaign uses the tagline “3conomics” to promote its recession inspired $0.99 value menu.

Unfortunately, these same print and television ads are sandwiched between the continual stream of headlines on the dire state of the economy, creating a perfect storm for consumer anxiety. While the marketplace has quickly adapted its tone to match the reality faced by cautious consumers, the most recent economic status reports suggest that in spite of these efforts consumers aren’t biting anything except their nails. Can these marketing campaigns spur the economy by ushering a new era of thrifty consumer spending, or have they been defeated from the outset by confirming new economic realities and perpetuating a cycle of consumer fear?