Berman to Leave Leo Burnett

CHICAGO Cheryl Berman, Leo Burnett’s North American chairman and former U.S. chief creative officer, is leaving the agency at the end of the year to pursue an independent venture focused on women’s communications services, according to the shop.

Berman, who spent her entire 32-year career at the agency here, was chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA from 1997-2006.

“I’ve had a wonderful adventure at Leo Burnett. How many people can say they had the opportunity to direct Michael Jordan in a 60-second commercial, or write a song performed live at the Super Bowl by Christina Aguilera?” Berman said in a statement. “Now, it’s time for me to build something inspirational and futuristic that I hope can actually help improve women’s lives.”

During that tenure, she helped establish various divisions, including youth marketing group KidLeo and in-house music production unit Music Aid.

She also played a key role in pitching and landing more than half of the business won by the agency during that stretch, the shop said.

Berman worked especially closely with Disney, Hallmark and McDonald’s.

She helped mold memorable campaigns for all three clients, including McDonald’s “Nothin’ but net” effort that showed Larry Bird and Jordan completing increasingly difficult shots in a bet for a Big Mac sandwich. Berman has long espoused the need for storytelling in advertising, which was evident in campaigns she helped craft for Hallmark and Disney.

Since relinquishing the CCO duties to agency veteran John Condon earlier this year, Berman has worked with agency division LeoShe, which specializes in marketing to women. (Berman will continue as a LeoShe consultant.)

Though respected for her client handling and business savvy, Berman was also viewed as a polarizing force in the creative department with a sometimes vexing management style.

“I can remember feeling that way [about my supervisors], and I’m sure there are people who feel that way,” Berman said in a 2005 interview, when asked about her management style. “This company has been through a lot and there’s going to be times when people don’t understand everything.”