Position: Senior vice president and chief strategic officer for E. James White Co., a Herndon advertising agency whose clients include Marriott, Amtrak and Litton/PRC.

Career highlights: Formerly executive director of strategic marketing for BellSouth; DePreta also managed brands including Coca-Cola, Nestle and Kraft for a number of agencies.

Age: 44

Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in Irish literature from the University of Dayton.

How do you go about building the emotional relationship between a product and consumers that is crucial to branding? "Today, at every ad agency, it's really no longer enough to offer the kind of creativity you see in commercials. We need to be business partners with our clients ... to also help solve their business problems. At the consumer end we need to help our clients shape the kinds of experiences that reflect positively on overall brand value. For instance ... traveling via Amtrak is not merely about `taking the train,' but about the customer's total experience of riding Amtrak. Taking the subway in New York from 42nd to 51st on the Number 6 line ... now that's `taking the train.'"

With literally hundreds of choices at their fingertips, online consumers can be more fickle shoppers. How have branding strategies changed as a result? "There is no better example of an instance in which a solid brand connection with consumers is more vital ... than in an environment where they are endlessly bombarded with conflicting and confusing information. Whether consumers are buying sneakers or software, how can they accept the essential retail nature of the brand unless they already believe that brand is a valuable choice? And if one is building [brand] value through more traditional media, then when customers come to the Web site of that brand, they are more apt to understand the inherent brand value."