Clash of Empires has tried to emphasise the units, the rank and file, the actual armies, rather than making it about the Heroes as WAB so often did. Commanders feature in CoE and even have traits, but they are for the most part in the rear actually commanding – as they are supposed to be. They are about command and control, not "let's bring it". Those that were historically more front line sorts (such as Ancient Greeks or Germans) have traits to reflect that – but their input is (rightfully I think) downplayed. If you send your commanders into combat there is a real risk they can die, just like any other man. They are after all, one man, with perhaps a small bodyguard – not the demigods Warhammer tended to made them. CoE recognises this.
In CoE there is plenty of character and personality in the actual armies, thanks to the flavours of the army lists. Special rules help bring out the character of the various factions rather well. It's just that the personality and flavour is no longer concentrated on the leaders.
As for rules for standards and musicians – the designers of CoE have deemed such rules unnecessary. The special rules, such as "drilled", "Shieldwall" "phalanx" or "legion" etc give more than enough character and variety for units already. But of course we all like our colourful standards and musicians, so the rulebook itself encourages us to feature them in our units or command stands. Standards and musicians don't have to be gone – it is perfectly ok to still have them in your units and to still have that character – there just aren't any rule/combat bonuses for doing so in CoE, that's all.
Here's a tip: Make one of your Subcommanders an army standard. ;) For that matter, make ALL of your Subcommanders standard bearers! Your command bases can be little diorama stands that can feature several models. Make the most of it! THERE is your character! My command bases for CoE feature the commander, a standard, one or two musicians, and an aide or two. There is no reason why you can't do something similar. And once you've made your characterful centre pieces, those little dioramas that are your pride and joy, THEN you'll sure have something to fight for! ;)
As for centimetres – it's changed because that is what is taught at British schools now and has been for quite some time. Inches are supposedly being phased out. It's just that old convention is hanging on rather more stubbornly than the government would like. ;)
There is a conversion table in the book if you want to use inches – the rulebook states that is perfectly ok.
Try to bear in mind, although CoE is one big homage/nod to WAB – and the familiarity that brings is certainly appealing – it is NOT actually WAB. The good fellows that wrote CoE have kept the WAB feel, to be sure, but they have also made changes and come up with stuff of their own. Which is as it should be, since CoE, after all, is a different ruleset.
Regarding the advertising: The advertising is from those companies that kindly supplied the figures that appear in the photos in the book. I don't think that it is too out of order for rulebook and figure maker to scratch one another's back! ;) Such content is pretty much par for the course with many modern rulesets, and in CoE it is far less blatant than the outrageous filler that is in, say, WAB2! (Or any other GW product for that matter).
Personally speaking I rather like the presentation. But each to their own. I also think that, as much as I loved WAB, GEG have improved on it and have the better game. It certainly suits my tastes better. But we all have our own tastes. :D