patio11's post tells us right up front where he learned this particular technique: Google taught it to him.
I'm not even speaking metaphorically. Google invented this technique, they use it on every search-results page where there's any money to be made with it, and they published an educational page that explicitly teaches the technique to everyone else, a page which Patrick links to and quotes.
Those of you who rail about the evils of advertising in general, or this technique in particular, are entitled to your opinions, but do please aim your rage at the appropriate target: Google.
Let's be clear - I'm not at all railing on the evils of advertising. I'm as much of a marketer as I am a product designer and programmer.
Google does not put faked user-generated content (review stars) next to their ads. This is functionally equivalent to me putting an ad on Facebook with the text "5 of your friends like this" embedded in the image. It's a deceptive lie aimed at blindly increasing CTR without regard to click quality. I would be 100x happier with the ad if he had simply left out the stars.
I was looking at the ad and trying to figure out what bothered me about it. I know on an intellectual level that this isn't very different from what Google does yet the ad here slightly offended me in a way that Google SERPs do not.
I think removing the phony star ratings would have made it more palatable (to me, at least).