Saturday, December 23, 2006

Needed: The Young, the Bold, the Naked

IN THE PIPELINE: Recruiting Gen-X is one group's naked ambition


As Baby Boomers in the United States reach retirement and the number of young adults takes a nosedive, the campaign to win the attention and loyalty of the younger set is heating up.

Solution? Have them take their clothes off. Well, maybe.

The American Association for Nude Recreation, based in Kissimmee, has launched a $53,000 media campaign targeted at 18- to 35-year-olds, Forbes magazine reports in its Dec. 25 issue. Upon first glance, it doesn't seem difficult to woo young men and women to embrace nude recreation - but a closer look at the association's membership profile begs to differ. According to a 1997 survey, 92 percent of AANR members are 35 or older, with the bulk of them being empty nesters.

Steve Vickers, the campaign's 25-year-old spokesman, says his goals are more about education and awareness than increasing membership.

"The interest is there, but it has to be presented to them," said Vickers, a college student who grew up in a nudist resort. "They might not do it now, but when they do have the time, they'll remember."

The drive to "join the nude revolution" includes advertisements in college publications, a MySpace page (, blogs and podcasts. The blogs and podcasts - which should be posted on the AANR Web site ( early next year - will focus on first-time experiences at nudist resorts and clubs, Vickers said.

Though the stereotypical prospect of aging naturists conjures flashes of sagging, hairy flesh and sunburned cellulite, the association's Web site flaunts snapshots of relaxation and contentment, with bare bottoms and smiling faces climbing snowbanks and lounging in hot tubs.

According to the group, nude recreation and travel has grown into a $400 million industry, with 270 resorts, clubs and campgrounds across the United States and Canada. In Jacksonville, there are the Northeast Florida Naturists (self-dubbed the "Friendliest lil club in Florida") who meet and travel in private gatherings. They also have a clothed meet-and-greet for the public to learn about who they are every first Friday of the month.

Carolyn Hawkins, AANR public relations coordinator, stresses that the new campaign makes up only 20 percent of the group's marketing budget and that the AANR's primary market still is the 50 and up.

"But we're always trying to get younger people to join," she said. "We want to be the credible voice of reason and let the young people know we're here."

To be sure, the campaign also is about extending the 75-year-old group's longevity. As its directors become older, there needs to be a new wave of leaders to take their place.

It is a common plight.

Entire cities are duking it out to become the hippest of the hip, in the hopes of attracting and keeping young talent by improving their quality of life and providing a variety of activities.

In the demographics battle for the young, single and college-educated, cities like Detroit and Cleveland are losing while those such as Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta are winning, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

Will the AANR's push to gain Gen X-ers (defined by Censusistas as people born between 1968 and 1979) work? There's no harm in trying - if only so people can say they've done it, Vickers said. After all, nudism is an exotic lifestyle with an air of taboo.

Certainly, there would be less to pack. Just remember the sunblock.


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