Imaging getting a brief of ‘make this as difficult as possible’? If it was a brief for an escape room, a maze or a crossword then maybe. But not in the world of copywriting.

I can only imagine that overly complex was definitely part of the brief for whoever did the copy side of the Amazon Prime unsubscribe. According to this piece in The Conversation ‘Dark patterns: how online companies strive to keep your money and data when you try to leave’  Amazon says “We make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership.” The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which aims to protect consumers from unfair business practices, disagrees and is currently investigating Amazon over this alleged use of dark patterns to enrol customers into its Prime service while making it difficult for them to leave.

The Conversation piece doesn’t just look at US sites though. In the UK The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently announced its first investigation into dark patterns with an open letter warning business against what it calls “harmful online choice architectures”.

““Choice architecture” is a term coined by the authors of the extremely popular and influential book Nudge. They describe it as “the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to decision-makers””. Dark patterns are about manipulating choice architecture to the detriment of the user. And this includes criticising overly lengthy and complex Ts&Cs. “In one study, a particularly long terms and conditions document led 98% of participants to agree to hand over their firstborn child as payment.”

It is the diametric opposite to my kind of work which is about making things simple. Simplicity should be the goal of any copywriting project. 

The primary aim of copy is typically to inform, engage, and persuade the audience. Businesses (usually) want their messaging to be easily understood and engaging. Unless you are trying to deceive people and/or are being deliberately obtuse/or are doing covert spy ops then I can’t see any rationale for doing it, can you?

Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Avoid lengthy complex sentences. Keep the jargon to a minimum. And keep the dark arts away from your briefs.