Cannes Lions is known for the unparalleled quality of its judges, comprised of the most influential creatives from around the world. This year, nine of our brightest leaders from across Accenture Interactive joined the juries. Natasha Chetiyawardana, Creative Partner at Bow & Arrow, part of Accenture Interactive, gives us a sneak peek behind the scenes of being a Cannes Lions jury member in 2021.

Note to self 

With last year’s event cancelled, we’ve had double the entries to absorb and judge. And that meant double the pre-judging too… to say it took a long time is an understatement. I should have done a Jon Wilkins and started pre-judging at 6am every day. Next year’s life goals.  

 The global effect 

Cannes is truly global. Most awards say they are, but really, they aren’t. The entries I saw were from all over the world, but what really stood out for me was the number and outstanding quality from Latin America. Subtitles were the norm for every film. It might seem obvious, but we are so used to the default language being English, that it made for a refreshing change. A very good thing in my opinion. Looking at the entries as a whole, not only are we seeing creativity from all over, many of them are tackling local and global issues, which puts everything in perspective. Moreover, a lot of the work was not just creative, it was insightful too, looking at issues that affect historically overlooked or underserved communities and geographies.  

Timing is everything  

Virtual is hard. Sure, we all know that, but what I mean is that judging Cannes virtually is hard work. And not just because we can’t have a glass or two of rosé on the waterfront. The presentations are packed in and each one shortlisted needs to be judged on their own merit, whether the jury’s been sitting, unmoving, at their screens for three hours or not. Luckily, our schedule has been impeccably managed by our brilliant co-ordinator, TJ, who relentlessly counts down each presenter in their (seemingly very short) 10-minute time slot. And no, you are not allowed an extra 30 seconds if you run over. It’s a lesson in good presentation and timekeeping in our new virtual world: 10 minutes for a presentation, followed by 10 minutes Q&A – ideally no less and certainly no more – can every meeting be like this please?  

Passion speaks volumes 

Creativity is judged not only on the quality of the work, but on the passion and insights from the people behind the ideas. I make decisions very easily (don't ask me about my faults) but I’ve been surprised at how much colour and depth these brilliantly creative people have added to their already rigorous submissions, so much so that it has the power to change even the strongest of opinions. 

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There have been a number of entries around inclusivity, and the insights, perspectives and energy around them are a breath of fresh air in a cynical world. This is not just marketing. This is important. 

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Be inspired 

I’ve met some really inspiring people. Sounds obvious, but not everyone that is in a senior position is inspiring. Not every entrepreneur can articulate themselves. This is what it feels like when you meet people that are truly at the top of their game and for a reason. The judges could be having coffees in the pre-dawn wee hours to wake up on the West Coast or similar to stay up in the late lockdown nights of Tokyo. And no, no one has any rosé. Still, there’s always next year.  

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Natasha Chetiyawardana

Creative Partner – Bow and Arrow, part of Accenture Song

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