By Michael Varrati
Everyone knows that behind the cowl of the Bat is a man with the initials B.W. However, for fans of Vine, those letters are more likely to stand for “Blake Wilson” than they are for “Bruce Wayne.” Known to millions in the digital realm as “BatDad,” Wilson has carved out a niche for himself as the caped crusader of solid parenting, doling out countless videos of gruff-voiced guidance for his four children.
A viral sensation, BatDad caught the attention of a plethora of media outlets when he made his debut last year. Despite this, Wilson maintains the sudden visibility was never really part of the plan.
“I’m 30 years old, and I honestly can’t stand social media,” Wilson tells me. “I never got behind Twitter, I have, like, 50 Facebook friends, I just never got into the whole thing. I wasn’t really planning to jump on the bandwagon. I was busy with work and my kids, it wasn’t something I was really looking for…but when Vine came out, it was different than everything else. It just really grabbed my attention. Vine, to me, was a lot more fun than spending time on any other social media application. What people were creatively doing in a short time span is what grabbed my attention.”
While he admittedly had a newfound interest in the latest social media app, Wilson still never thought it would be a device that would change his life.
“It was a complete fluke. It wasn’t planned,” he says. “We were going to another toddler’s birthday party about a year ago, and we ran into Target to pick up a present. I saw the cowl, bought it, and when we got in the car, I put it on. I called myself BatDad, and just started making silly videos. It went from there. There was not a lot of thought put into it, we were just doing something goofy and having fun. It just picked up speed on its own.”
Regardless of initial intent, Wilson’s social media persona struck a chord with the masses. With a gravelly cadence, millions began to tune in as BatDad shared integral life tidbits with his children. By referencing one of pop culture’s greatest personas, Wilson managed to catch the attention of those who recognize the dynamics of daily living requires as much heroics as the improbable world of comics.
A sensation, BatDad came to the attention of Jukin Media, which he eventually partnered with, extending his brand even farther into the digital space.
“We thought there was something interesting about BatDad,” says Jonathon Skogmo, CEO of Jukin. “We saw him rise through the ranks, and we really enjoyed his content. We thought he was a perfect example of an influencer that we could turn into a targeted brand.”
Through his partnership with Jukin, Wilson has seen a visibility via integrated branding that he admits he never thought was even possible.
“When I first started doing Vine, it wasn’t even a year old yet. I didn’t see much advertising initially, because obviously, advertisers were waiting to see if anything would happen,” he says. “It’s something I never expected.”
…and yet, despite expectations, his persona has turned many heads, including coming to the attention of DC Comics, home of Batman himself — a fact which seems to please the parental purveyor.
“As a kid, I was always into comic books, and I see all the movies that are made,” Wilson tells me, relating that he feels honored DC seems to be into what he’s doing. “It is pretty cool, and I often think about how people relate what I’ve done to Batman. It’s kind of crazy.”
Beyond a nod of approval from the iconic comics imprint (as well as Warner Bros, who preside over Batman’s cinematic side), BatDad was given the chance to further contribute to his part in Bat history when DC asked him to participate in several videos for the company’s YouTube channel last year. More than just a fun novelty, Wilson’s entertaining brand of parenting has now become an official footnote in the legacy of one of pop culture’s most known characters.
Still, even with validation from Batman’s home base, the social media averse Wilson suggests his particular brand of fame still requires some adjustment.
“I do feel overwhelmed. If I’m on too much…if I stay on Vine, if I stay on Instagram, and I read all the comments…it DOES get overwhelming,” he says. “But, my life hasn’t changed dramatically. I get recognized every once in a while, but nothing crazy. The first couple months were a lot crazier than they are now, when things went viral and everyone was talking. A year a later, it’s calmed down.”
But, the calming tide doesn’t seem to be of concern to Wilson (who, we must note, still pulls in millions of viewers).
“When it comes to BatDad and social media, I am 100%, completely content with where it is right now,” says Wilson. “My family and I are good, we’re very fortunate for where we are and to be able to have the life that we have. I’ve always said this was just for fun, and that’s true. I’m having a good time, but if it went away, we’d survive. This is something we can all look back on and laugh at later down the road. It just comes to down to the fact that when things go viral, everybody wants a piece of it, and then it settles down. That’s how I look at it, and there’s not a single thought in my mind that this is somehow going to be our future. So, I just want to protect my family, keep our business, and keep having fun.”
This article is part of VideoInk’s special issue on mobile video and Vine, “Video on the Go.” Come back all week as we highlight issues and stars of the mobile and social video space.