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.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.