BenettonPlay: You don’t always have to shoot’m up.

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by: Alain Thys

When Silvia Marini of Fabrica in Italy dropped me a note about the launch of, I wasn’t just interested in it because of my 10 years in fashion.  When checking out the group's new gaming site, I was immediately taken by its implicit invitation for creativity and wanted to know more …The subsequent email exchange with Andy Cameron, Creative Director Interactive at Fabrica, shows that he means what he says when he advises marketers to take games seriously (note: Fabrica is the Benetton Communication Research Centre).  

“We all know the world of marketing communication is changing rapidly, but no one knows where it’s going.  One of the key ways in which communication seems to be changing is that more and more people expect to be actively involved in their own communication experience.  They want to be protagonists.  They want to talk and play with each other.

While the marketing world is more comfortable with traditional message oriented communication, for many people these days, especially the younger demographic, it can be hard to get the messages across.  They’re too busy chatting and playing.  In order to try and reach this sector we decided to do an online games site for Benetton, but we wanted it to be different from other online games sites”.

In this context the team at Fabrica focused on creating games they wanted to play themselves.  These are games that are open rather than closed – where the player brings their own creativity to the experience, rather than follow a pre-defined path.  Andy explains:  “We didn’t want to make games which are competitive, but rather games which enhance the player’s sense of creative potential and allows them to share their creations with others.  Maybe they’re not games at all, maybe they’re toys.  In any case the sense of open endedness was very important to us.”

The results so far have been encouraging.  There are “lots of” daily and returning visitors and – best of all – an average stay time which is nearly 20 minutes (which means quite a few stay longer).  Many of the players also seem to feel a real sense of ownership of the site, even after only a few weeks of the site being online, which can be explained by the fact that most content on the site is user generated though, in my opinion, is still an achievement.

Where the next gaming steps of Benetton will lead them Andy won’t yet give away, yet it’s clear is a place to keep watching.   Meanwhile, give it a try.  My favourite game is Odd One Out

The team behind the project:

top row from left: Andy Cameron (UK), Creative Director, Federica Roncalli (Italy), Producer
middle row from left: Juan Ospina (Colombia), Designer Flipbook, Linus Nilsson (Sweden), Designer BubbleBreeze, Silvia Marini (Italy) Writer, Hansi Raber (Austria) Designer Doodle and Odd One Out (original concept Ross Phillips)
front row from left: Michela Venturin (Italy) Art Director, Federico Urdaneta (Colombia) Designer Orbit.

Andy Cameron, Creative Director Fabrica Interactive,  has been working in interactive media design for over ten years. In 2001 he was appointed visiting artist and subsequently creative director in interaction design at Fabrica where he is responsible for the research programme in interactive media as well as guiding Benetton’s online and interactive communication policy.  He is currently working on United People, an interactive video installation and online community for Benetton megastores worldwide.

Hansi Raber is an Austrian programmer (and sometimes student of mathematics) who's been serving at FABRICA for eight month now. He gets really excited about accordions, soap bubbles and hanging out in parks. His favorite google video is Einstein The Parrot.

Juan Ospina is a Colombian graphic designer turned Internet creator, working at the Interactive department in FABRICA since 2004. Likes to focus on on-line applications only, since the Internet is, in his mind, the best invention human kind has come up with since the wheel. His favorite Google video is a DIY t-shirt folder made of pieces of a cardboard box.

Federico Urdaneta is a Colombian musician / interactive designer currently working in the FABRICA interactive department, developing new, shiny and completely useless forms of making music. He used to be a handball champion, but a routine knee operation gone bad forced him out of the fields and into the world of computers. Fate, they call it.

Silvia Marini studied marketing and event management before deciding to devote herself to a more playful field related to communication and contemporary art. She became a member of the Ars Electronica Festival team and then she mysteriously landed at Fabrica. Here she plays the role of an art reporter focusing her research on interactive and relational art.

Michela Venturin: After realizing that painting was not the career for alive people, Michela switched to computer graphics and became a web designer.  She’s been at Fabrica for five years now.  One of her projects at Fabrica is   For this website she created an interface where the games could coexist harmoniously and simultaneously adhere to the Benetton identity.

Linus Nilsson is an interactive developer with a current interest in mobile applications. He is from Sweden. He likes music. He likes art. He likes football. He likes a lot of things.

Photos and graphics used with permission from Benetton.