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Campaign Spotlight: Argylle, by Elly Conway

By Amy Greensmith, Emily Lavin, Leah Murphy, Georgia Rees, Annamária Rátki


Over the past couple of months, the world has been asking two questions: “Who is agent Argylle?” and (more importantly) “Who is Elly Conway?” For such a highly anticipated debut novel, the identity of the author has been shrouded in secrecy. It’s not a typical marketing technique – the life and work of the author are usually emphasised – but the mystery has certainly helped to boost interest in the novel. 


The book follows the troubled agent Argylle who is called upon by the CIA to try and stop one of the world’s most powerful men from getting “a priceless treasure of unrivalled opulence.” The book has been met with positive reviews with The Telegraph describing it as “an excellent example of the action-thriller genre” and the film’s director promising “the most incredible spy franchise since Ian Fleming.”


In this issue, we will explore how the approach of borrowing the mystery from the pages and an accompanying film adaptation, helped to create an ambitious and unorthodox marketing campaign.


Who Is Elly Conway?


A key part of the marketing for Argylle was the mystery around who exactly Elly Conway is. When the book was first announced, a search of the internet yielded no results but an inactive Instagram page, and no clues as to the identity of the author or any of her previous works. Once the campaign got underway, however, “Elly Conway” began to post on both Instagram and Twitter, with both of these accounts now appearing as if a real person runs them.


One of the main fan theories about the secret identity of Elly Conway was that she was the one-and-only global superstar, Taylor Swift, who is a notoriously busy person. Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Conway in the movie adaptation, looks a lot like Swift in her All Too Well short film and Conway’s cat looks suspiciously like Swift’s own Scottish Fold who is even carried around in a specially designed backpack exactly like Swift wears in her Miss Americana documentary. 


Some posed the idea that one of the stars of the movie, Dua Lipa, was the real author behind the book, and some even believed that it might be the director himself, Matthew Vaughn. Despite all of the theories circulating, Elly Conway was later unmasked by The Telegraph as a joint venture by crime writers Terry Hayes (author of I Am Pilgrim) and Tammy Cohen (author of When She Was Bad). 


Social Media


As we have seen, social media – in the form of online fan theories surrounding Conway’s true identity –  has played an instrumental role in the marketing campaign for Argylle. Alongside this unique use of social media marketing, the Penguin team have also made use of more traditional forms of social media promotion.


With her first Instagram post in December 2022, Conway revealed not only the novel’s cover but also its publication date. While this post did not attract a huge amount of attention initially, once readers began to question the true identity of the author, the post became flooded with fan theories as well as excitement for the novel. In the weeks before publication day, Conway’s Instagram account has been almost solely dedicated to promoting Argylle. This ensured that potential readers had frequent updates regarding the novel’s publication as well as tasters of the film adaptation. 


The marketing team at Penguin have also made excellent use of Twitter and Instagram to further promote the novel and keep readers up to date with all things Argylle. Foyle’s Books, in collaboration with Penguin, ran an Instagram competition to win a copy of Argylle signed by Bryce Dallas Howard. Online competitions like this – where participants are required to reshare and interact with a post – are an efficient way to generate buzz and get the word out about a new publication. 


Argylle – Coming to cinemas and bookshops near you


The movie Argylle, which stars Henry Cavil, Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell, premiered on the 1 February 2024 in the UK. The book of the same title was available to buy in bookshops on 4 January this year. Pretty standard so far; many major Hollywood movie releases coincide with a book reprint with a movie cover. 

However, the case of Argylle is a bit more “meta” as Vaughn put it. The movie is about the writer Elly Conway getting caught up with real spies when her spy-thriller books turn out to be prophetic. The book Argylle is the first of a series of novels written by Elly Conway, the movie's protagonist. The combined release of the book and the movie has been a great decision and it’s a perfect opportunity to create momentum for both mediums. The first line of each listing of the book screams in bold letters how it inspired the “action blockbuster Argylle, featuring a star-studded cast…”. What’s more, there are permanent stickers on each copy, highlighting the same thing. Even the publicity events have been overlapping for the book and the movie. Foyles has hosted a signing of the book, not with the writer but with director Matthew Vaughn and lead actress Bryce Dallas Howard. The event had a red carpet and intricate display built in the Charing Cross Road Foyles, creating a mix between a movie premier and a book launch event. 

Argylle has had one of the most unique marketing campaigns of its generation and we can’t wait to see what comes next. 


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