Basically he is auctioning off only the visual elements (his face can be replaced by another picture and the background image can be changed). This does not include content (tweets).
I think such a strategy is disastrous for a brand to engage itself in. The real engagement on Twitter comes through conversations. Having said that, if Ian has a consistent stream of Tweets around a consistent topic (he doesn’t) – then it makes sense for a brand to engage because then the conversations and the brand will synergize leading to positive externalities.
If he speaks random gibberish then the brand may appear confused. Which isn’t the best thing. Having said that it’s a worthy experiment nevertheless.
I’m happy that Ian isn’t selling the rights to Tweets – like other users. His value presumably comes from his Tweets and if that goes then everything goes.
Incidentally I was talking to someone from SMSGupshup the other day about creating communities and also approaching owners of large communities to send out a brand message as a part of the informal communication (SMSGupshup has crossed 65 lakh subscriber by the way) – that is fine to a certain extent but over time it defeats the purpose because if the credibility of content starts to fall, then everything is lost. Unlike Twitter, on SMSGupshup, there is nothing visual that can be modified.
Such models are being explored and it only indicates that the scale of power in terms of opinion leadership, creation and generation is shifting from mass media to user generated media much more than it ever has in the history of man.
Follow me on Twitter so that one day even I can auction off my profile :p – haha just kidding!