C&R Coyne contrast two theories of advertising. ATSRTWT. It's a quick read, three pages, including illustrations. It's even more interesting for the emanations and penumbras.
Like Chris and Rachel, I'm far more inclined to lean in the direction of the advertising-as-information camp (though I think I'm nearer to advertising as persuasion or even romance). But assume for the moment that the advertising-as-manipulation hypothesis is correct. If it is, what is the appropriate remedy? Fraudulent advertising is illegal, and rightly so (or so my common law jurisprudential intuitions tell me). But drumming up demand where none might otherwise exist? It seems to me that the authority to censor advertising beyond the narrow limits of constitutionally unprotected speech is fairly prone to abuse. More so even than the depredations of even the most cunning advertiser.
The response to a silver tongue cannot be glossectomy. Not in a civilized society. If consumers end up predictably regretting their purchases thanks to the misleading glamour of advertising, the appropriate response is to make asceticism more glamorous. Surely this can be done. We've got Barbie-sized fun houses these days and professors living in dumpsters. That has to be a triumph, right?