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BIRTH DATE: Sept. 22, 1952, in Chicago. FAMILY: Married to Randy Kretchmar; children: Savana, 9; Sam, 8; Jake, 3. EDUCATION: B.A. journalism, University of Illinois at Urbana. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: currently exec VP-group creative director and member of the board, Leo Burnett Co., Chicago; exec VP-group creative director, 1987-93; senior VP-creative director, 1984-87; VP-associate creative director, 1978-84; copy supervisor, 1976-78; copywriter, 1974-76. HOBBIES: Songwriting, playing guitar and being with family. BERMAN'S KIDS INSPIRE HER FIRST FEMALE BOARD MEMBER WOULD LIKE A SIMPLIFIED BURNETT

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Mixed in among the dozens of awards littering Cheryl Berman's Chicago office at Leo Burnett USA are photos of her true artistic inspiration: her kids.

Ms. Berman's three children provide an endless supply of creative material for the commercials she helps produce as exec VP-group creative director on the McDonald's Corp., Hallmark Cards and Beef Industry Council accounts.

And when Ms. Berman, 41, broke the glass ceiling at Burnett early this year, becoming the first woman ever appointed to the parent company's board, she had to explain to her kids that breaking that kind of glass isn't dangerous.

Despite the difficulties of juggling career and family, she contends family life has given her priceless insight into the consumer psyche. "Half of the children's things we do come from real-life experiences," she says.

A McDonald's ad showing a boy who brings his father to school for show and tell was based on a Burnett copywriter's experience. Several children in ads for Hallmark and McDonald's are named after agency employees.

One touching McDonald's ad loosely based on Ms. Berman's life was particularly difficult to write, she says. "Smell the Roses" tells the story of a working father whose job often keeps him away from his family. In the ad, he cancels his business trip and takes his children to McDonald's instead.

"I can't say I've ever done exactly that, but that's the feeling you have sometimes," Ms. Berman says. Her husband, Randy Kretchmar, a free-lance legal researcher, helps look after their brood.

Having started at Burnett in 1974 as a copywriter-the best job at the agency, she contends-Ms. Berman is a lover of words.

In her latest role, Ms. Berman has a hand in new-business deals. One goal is to help "simplify" Burnett.

"I hope we can make it a simpler step to the top of this company, so if people are ready to do something, they can do it without having to go through as many layers," Ms. Berman says.

Her other goal is to continue focusing on terrific creative.

Pointing to ads for Visa, Pepsi and Nike as her favorite non-Burnett campaigns, Ms. Berman says she finds the "I wish I'd done that" attitude very healthy. "I wish the competition were stiffer," she says. "I think it would raise the bar for the whole industry."

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