Vitaminwater Will Pay This Fantasy Author $100,000 If She Turns Off Her Phone for a Year

Elana Mugdan will boldly attempt a smartphone sabbatical

Elana Mugdan, who began working on her first novel at age 14, says smartphones can be an inescapable distraction for writers. - Credit by Vitaminwater
Headshot of Shannon Miller

Is there anything these days that can’t be accessed, managed or controlled by a smartphone? From staying connected with work to starting our cars, our mobile devices have become the figurative (and sometimes very literal) key to how we move through daily life.

To say that we’re obsessed with our smartphones doesn’t quite encapsulate just how much of a necessity they’ve become.

So if you were challenged to give up your smartphone for one year, could you? One fantasy author believes she can, and Vitaminwater is ready to reward her if she pulls it off.

In December, Coca-Cola and Vitaminwater launched a contest asking willing participants to post a photo showing what they’d do for a year in lieu of scrolling on their devices. More than 100,000 people responded by using the tag #nophoneforayear. In the end, author, filmmaker and dragon enthusiast Elana Mugdan was selected to surrender her beloved smartphone and endure the ultimate test.

The phone currently resides in a small, Vitaminwater-branded jail cell. Mugdan is allowed access to a flip phone, and will have to supplement the rest of her needs with old school relics, like a Walkman and an actual alarm clock. Will she have to resort to printed directions from Mapquest in place of a navigational system? We shudder to think.

After her smartphone sabbatical, Vitaminwater will administer a polygraph test to make sure she’s truthful about following the rules. If she passes, she’ll win $100,000. Mugdan also has the option of tapping out at the halfway mark, upon which she would receive $10,000.

“I’ll come to the end of paragraph and, unsure of what to write next, instinctively reach for my phone. That’s so detrimental to me as a writer. Phones are supposed to help us, but they can be a huge hindrance.”
Elana Mugdan, author

Mugdan hopes the experience will break her of some of her bad smartphone-related habits.

“I’m hyper-cognizant of how I use my phone throughout the day and have noticed a terrible pattern when I’m writing… in moments when I should be sitting still and thinking quietly,” she says in a Coca-Cola blog post about the project. “I’ll come to the end of paragraph and, unsure of what to write next, instinctively reach for my phone. That’s so detrimental to me as a writer. Phones are supposed to help us, but they can be a huge hindrance.”

For years, Vitaminwater’s marketing has consistently called on consumers to imagine their lives just a step above the normal routine.

“Vitaminwater has always challenged the monotony—and there’s nothing more monotonous than scrolling mindlessly through your phone,” says associate brand manager Natalia Saurez in Coca-Cola’s blog post. “We also proudly take a stand against the bland and boring, and Elana is anything but bland or boring.”


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Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: March 1, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/creativity/vitaminwater-will-pay-this-fantasy-author-100000-if-she-turns-off-her-phone-for-a-year/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT