E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC) has uploaded a pair of new television commercials to its YouTube channel.

The voiceover work is deep and crisp. The new "investing unleashed" tagline is cemented by assuring nuggets of self-investing wisdom, including:

  • "You made the money. You should have everything you need to invest it."
  • "It means getting everything you need to invest for yourself, not by yourself."
  • "Sitting, waiting, hoping. That's not how successful investing is done."

There's something missing, though. The mouthy E*TRADE Baby who has anchored the discount broker's ads over the past couple of years is nowhere to be found.

Love him or hate him, the chatty icon was responsible for the more memorable ads in the discount brokerage industry. I'll take the E*TRADE Baby over any of the creepy interpolated rotoscoping ads that Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW) used to put out. And I forget Sam Waterston's ads for TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD) the moment they end.

In its pint-sized spokesman, E*TRADE had something edgy and Super Bowl-ad worthy. Was the inexplicable Lindsay Lohan lawsuit to blame? Is the cutthroat nature of falling commissions and free ETF trading forcing a more conventional marketing approach?

You might say that E*TRADE is growing up. The company's coming off its first quarterly profit in three years. E*TRADE also has a new CEO, after former Citigroup (NYSE: C) exec Steven Freiberg joined the brokerage this year. And it executed a 1-for-10 reverse split in June -- perhaps a symbolic example that the discounter's coming of age.

However, E*TRADE seems to be the only online broker posting any kind of improvement. Analysts expect Schwab, TD AMERITRADE, OptionsXpress (Nasdaq: OXPS), and Interactive Brokers (Nasdaq: IBKR) to all post lower earnings this year than they did in 2009.

The competition is real, and even Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC) Merrill Lynch is making a late play in the discounting space.

The competitive nature of the industry may be forcing a more serious push for accounts at E*TRADE, and hence the new marketing campaign. However, I think the levity and mainstream brand awareness that the E*TRADE Baby brought to the changing table was the better tack -- then and now.