Times of economic hardship are especially tough on ad people who make their living bullshitting about "brand relevance," "brand integrity," " brand saliency," and other forms of brand baloney.
In these times, clients expect their advertising to actually sell something. When it doesn't, they get cranky.
Some years ago the ad industry decided that it no longer had to bother itself with the mundane task of selling. Instead, advertising could focus on the much more civilized practice of branding -- whatever the hell that means.
Usually it means we don't have to bother to provide the consumer with any reason to prefer our product. As long as we're clever, hip, and arch we can create "brand advocates" who will internalize our "brand meaning," and...I don't know...write blogs about how much they love us, or something?
Unfortunately, it ain't that easy. The most effective, in fact, the only way to build a brand is to sell someone something.
It often comes as a shock to ad people when we find out how little the marketplace cares about our cleverness and our hipness. Apparently, consumers are more concerned with their own self-interest than with our brilliance.