There’s a new UK advertising campaign for the First Direct bank, the tagline of which reads, “There’s no right way to money.” Of course there are millennia of data to suggest – unless borrowing to buy a house or defend a nation in time of war – that there is very definitely a right way “to money”. But this column’s real niggle about the ad is its promotion of a very wrong way “to English”. What are the scenarios in which we might employ First Direct’s use of the noun “money” as a verb? Maybe as the bill arrives in a restaurant: “How should we money this? 50-50?” Nauseating. When talking to an employee during their review: “We think we’re moneying you fairly for your performance this year.” I wish I were dead. How about ringing First Direct itself for overdraft advice? “Well, I’m moneying inadequately at the moment but have a new contract starting next month.” Imagine their faces in the call centre. And imagine if Tom Cruise’s famous “Show me the money!” line in Jerry Maguire became, “Please display your incoming and outgoing financial transactions!”
This dispiriting trend has been going on for a while – and not just in advertising. Despite “shopping” being a verb, people now believe that they can “shop” sofas rather than go shopping for a sofa. And there is an especially spiky rung of hell’s ladder reserved for those who want to “gift” things to each other instead of giving them.
First Direct is a branch-less phone-and-online “challenger bank” (in fact, originally a part of large Midland Bank, which later became the very big HSBC) whose branding and attitude was created by late great ad man Wally Olins. He was a formidable communicator who would, I think, have been jumping up and down on his signature outsized spectacles in frustration at such naff copywriting. If “money” really is a verb that can mean anything then, fine: First Direct’s new campaign can be the first to money right off.