The main benefit of the partnership for Special Olympics is that the People's Choice Awards gave up some of their precious airtime to ask for donations for the cause.
According to press reports, at 10:51 PM (eastern) Ms. Williams asked viewers to use their cell phones to donate $10 to Special Olympics. See the video footage above. Donations were processed by mobilecause.com.
The ad at the left promoting the appearance came from Proctor & Gamble's annual FSI on behalf of Special Olympics, which dropped on December 26, 2010.
I didn’t see Ms. Williams' appearance. Aside from the presidential debates and occasional viewings of the show 'Nature' on PBS, we don’t watch television at Chez Jones. But this represents another high-profile use of using television to advertise text to donate. The United Way got a similar, if briefer, treatment during the 2008 and 2009 Super Bowls.
Special Olympics knew within minutes whether or not Ms. Williams' pitch was an effective fundraiser. My recollection is that the 2009 United Way ad did less than $50,000, although text to donate ads do very well in Europe and Asia.
I like these text to donate direct response efforts. But if they have a problem it is that they don’t have much staying power. Ms. Williams’ appeal will have a second life on YouTube, but it will only be seen once by a large audience. This kind of appeal is not like other kinds direct response television like infomercials, which air many, many times.