Ethos in Advertising: From AAA to the US Army


In December, my students examined television commercials and print advertisements for ethos, pathos, and logos.  The result?  They understood the three modes of persuasion extremely well… and they felt manipulated.

Ethos done right is the opposite of manipulation.  In fact, if the audience feels manipulated, there is no ethos.  There is a big difference between using ethos to exploit consumers and embodying ethos.

An example of a company who embodies ethos is AAA, and on New Year’s Eve, AAA showed their character, credibility, and reputation.  I saw Tweets and read articles about AAA’s “Tipsy Tow” policy for NYE.  From 6 PM to 6 AM on New Year’s Eve, AAA offered to take both you and your car home for free, and you didn’t even have to be a member.  Now that’s ethos.

My December class analyzed this commercial with strong ethos:


Does the United States Army as seen in the commercial above use ethos or embody ethos?  How do you know?


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