Skip to content

The best TV pilot ever and what it taught me about copy

It starts with a woman, laying on a conference room table.

Looks like she’s sleeping? Or she’s just unconscious.

Then a voice coming out of a speaker says “Who are you?”.

This is how Severance, one of my favorite tv shows this year starts off.

It’s been a while since I watched something as compelling and fascinating on tv. I’m not gonna spoil you the plot, but I thought there are a few lessons just from watching episode 1 on everything from building a story, creating anticipation and world building.

TV show pilots are a great way to test an audience’s reaction to a story. And what Severance did amazingly well, was to slowly build details into their story without giving it away.

It’s all a matter of how they structure every scene, and of what questions they arise on purpose in the viewer’s mind.

It’s a constant back and forth between creating doubt around something and then giving the answer, but not in full.

Just enough to spur curiosity and make people wonder what’s coming next.

This constant dripping of information is also what contributes to creating the world the series is set in. For context there’s an outside world and the office world.

Both worlds are built slowly, intentionally and in a way that creates contrast. It helps you enter the protagonist’s mind (or minds… ok no spoilers seriously, go watch it).

What can all of this teach us that we can apply to copy and UX?

Every part of your website should contribute to building your “world”, your brand and product image. And it should trickle information just enough to educate readers without overwhelming them.

And while making them eager to learn more.

It’s a subtle balance, but when done well, it can sell people without them knowing you’re doing it (and still being ethical about it).

How you construct this balance is by first breaking down your positioning. I created my Positioning Breakdown document that I use for every project just for this.

It tells you what you need to learn and how to put it all together.

Tomorrow, I’ll outline some of the most important sections and give you an overview.

P.S. A new podcast I was a guest on just came out. It’s a much different and more personal conversation that I had anywhere else. It’s also 2+ hours long, but we dive into some cool topics. Here it is.

brain dump?

Every day (yes!) I write about what I’m learning at my copywriting/UX desk ,with fun, insightful and quirky stories.

Let’s nerd about decision making, persuasion, habits, and conversion optimization.