Oh yes, we’re unexpected all right. You can bank on it.

One of the perks of travelling on the Underground – assuming that body odour and awkward eye contact just don’t do it for you – is the range of advertising on display. Shiny new mobile phone contracts, exotic travel destinations and distinctly creepy dating websites all fight for your attention, each desperate to land the knock-out killer punchline. This literary arms race has led to the development of increasingly advanced wordplay technology, as all sides continue to search for the most effective weapons of mass distraction.

Sometimes the results are amusing. Sometimes they are thought-provoking. And sometimes, more than anything else, they are just plain weird.

Take this one, for instance, spotted in its natural habitat of the Westbound Hammersmith Line.

This picture is to fine art what snorkelling is to caramel.

Oh yes, because in this time of radical economic austerity, the last thing we want is another one of those stable, predictable, normal banks. Look how they fouled things up over the past few years. No, what we need now is edginess. An ounce of devil-may-care mixed with half-a-gram of zany unpredictability. Did I just mix my units? Weren’t expecting that, were you? Welcome to first direct, the bank where employees are encouraged to adopt a casual, seat-of-the-pants, improvised approach to your money. You want a bank loan this week? Sure, have it. And repay it in a week. A month. Two months. Tomorrow. It’s overdue. Is your rate of interest too low? We’ll double it. Now we’ll triple it. Ok, now you pay us. Oh, what are we like. Do you know what we’re like? We’re like an octopus. No, we’re like an ibex. Ooh, ooh, I’ve got one – we’re like a platypus. Yeah? Because we’re totally unexpected. Yeah. And something to do with bills. Go Team Platypus!

Random (and, admittedly, unexpected) as that poster was, at the very least it made sense. This one, lurking in the undergrowth further along the same corridor, does not.

 

Picture a row of tube adverts. We're the one that makes no sense.

Which one beatboxing? I wasn’t told to imagine a bird beatboxing. I was told to imagine birds chirping – an odd request but one with which I have done my level best to comply. And now, after all my imaginative brain space has been used up on creating an ensemble of traditionally musical avifauna, you introduce this beatboxing character to the mix. That isn’t just unexpected, it’s rude. And also, quite frankly, nonsensical.

If first direct want to be truly unexpected, here are some suggestions for alternative slogans.

  • Every penny you bank with us goes towards our CEO’s retirement fund.
  • Come one, come all, free bowl of gazpacho with every new debit card
  • Bank with us – we don’t chain our pens to the counter
  • If anyone would like some free money, first come first served.
  • Boo!

Thank you for your time