Frustrated by 2020, Steve Carell’s Santa Finds Holiday Joy in Ad for Xfinity

The elves come to the rescue in spot from GS&P

Joy in the year of pain. Comcast

It’s been such a weird year that even one of the most optimistic people in the world, Santa Claus, may have trouble finding some good. 

In the latest holiday film from Xfinity, Steve Carell plays a stressed-out Santa, wishing for inspiration from his elves to wow the children during an anything-but-normal 2020. Comcast’s Xfinity has again created holiday magic, with the help of Carell’s impeccable timing as a modern Claus. It’s a worthy follow-up to last year’s E.T.-inspired “Holiday Reunion” ad.

The three-and-a-half-minute film, “The Greatest Gift” by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, finds Carell, who worked with the agency on Pepsi’s 2019 Super Bowl ads, trying to be a jolly old elf but quickly realizing his “Ho-ho-hos” don’t have quite the oomph in 2020. He gathers his elves together via videoconferencing and tells them the usual gifts won’t cut it, challenging them to come up with something better.

The film is full of all the quirks and annoyances 2020 has brought, like being stuck indoors, home shopping, Zoom calls, spouses walking into video calls in the background and talking while on mute. But the script keeps it fresh, especially against a North Pole backdrop that feels both fantastically idyllic and rustically real.

As the elves try to think up the perfect gift, one industrious worker comes up with a gem—togetherness—packaged up for the holidays. Carell’s Santa is filled with doubt and stress eating, but his Mrs. Claus assures him it will work.

“The holidays are really about moments of togetherness with the people you love, and serve as a reminder for what’s most important, especially given the hardships of this past year. I hope that this sweet little story will bring a bit of cheer,” said Carell in a statement.

Watching the elves gather up all the typical holiday cheer—the smell of grandma’s cooking, grandpa’s silly stories, family snowball fights—to a remake of Supertramp’s “Dreamer” by Roger Hodgeson makes for some great visual gags. The film was created in partnership with production company MJZ and director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, and Disney’s upcoming Cruella).

The short film shows that technology can bring people together, even if not in-person. 

“This year the internet has kept us more connected than ever, allowing us to do more than we thought possible, in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances,” said Todd Arata, senior vice president of brand marketing at Comcast.

A two-minute version aired during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Beyond the film, Xfinity brings moments of togetherness to life with a Pinterest activation called The Greatest Gift Shoppe—a virtual store designed to help keep families connected through the holidays.

“Getting the chance to tell a story about how Santa and the elves work together to pull off the impossible in a year when we’ve all had to wrestle with what work now looks like has been a special experience,” added GS&P co-chairman Jeff Goodby. “And the chance to shape it with an actor as beloved as Steve Carell gives the film an extra feeling of warmth.”


Client: Comcast
Brand: Xfinity
Campaign Name: The Greatest Gift
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Chief Marketing Offer: Sophia Ahmad
SVP, Brand Marketing, Messaging and Media: Peter Intermaggio
SVP, Brand Marketing IMC: Todd Arata
Vice President, Brand IMC: Dustin Hayes
Senior Director, Brand IMC: Rose Holden 
Manager, Brand IMC: Gabby Maunder

Executive Director, Social Marketing: Nader Ali-Hassan
Director, Social Marketing: Jennifer Marder
Community Manager, Xfinity Brand: Lacey Ketchell

Kyle O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Jim Thorpe, Pa.