By now, you've probably seen the E*Trade (Nasdaq: ETFC) baby ads. The company spent $4 million to air both ads during the Super Bowl, reaching tens of millions of viewers.

The first ad promoted E*Trade's discount brokerage business, with the gabby baby spitting up milk after completing a stock transaction with a single click. The second ad promoted E*Trade's high-yielding banking products, with the baby renting a clown only to realize that he "really underestimated the creepiness" of the hire.

The ads remained a hit long after Eli hit Plaxico for the winning score. On E*Trade's YouTube channel -- yes, E*Trade has a YouTube channel -- the two ads have combined for more than a million views since Super Bowl Sunday.

The ads may be the best investment E*Trade has ever made. Think about it: E*Trade was up against the ropes late last year. Retail brokerage customers were initially defecting after the company began selling loan-related assets at fire-sale prices.

The migration finally settled down toward the end of 2007, but E*Trade needed a knockout blow. It had to convince mainstream customers that the company was both here to stay and a viable alternative for brokerage and banking needs.

Mission accomplished. Even if you hate the ads, or feel that the talking-baby motif has been overdone in the past, E*Trade is being talked about -- with no one wondering whether it's on the brink of going under or angling for a suitor.

E*Trade is cool again, and its timing couldn't be better. Rivals TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD) and Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW) get stronger with every passing quarter. E*Trade can't afford to be left behind. Despite its challenges, E*Trade's retail brokerage businesss showed signs of life in the company's latest quarter.

The company seems to see it that way, too. Ten insiders snapped up a total of $2 million shares after last month's reassuring quarterly report.

So rock on, E*Trade Baby. Even if you don't get a television series like Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) and its GEICO cavemen did, you're a pop-culture icon with potentially greater staying power than the chimpanzee that graced E*Trade's ads during the dot-com heyday.

Chimps pitching brokerages? Talk about underestimating the creepiness factor.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in self-service gasoline pumps and self-service stock brokerages. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.