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Buzz-marketing firm rakes in $13.8 million

BzzAgent, a leading word-of-mouth marketer, scores funding and plans to expand its operations and staff.

BzzAgent, one of the world's leading word-of-mouth marketing firms, said Friday that it closed a $13.75 million series-B round of funding.

The marketing company, which has clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Cadbury Schweppes, Ralph Lauren and Levi's Dockers, uses what it calls buzz-marketing strategies to build consumer interest in products.

Buzz marketing is unlike traditional marketing, the company said, because it involves unpaid volunteers talking to friends and family about products they believe in.

The company said it will use its new windfall--raised from General Catalyst Partners and IDG Ventures Boston--to build new market share and add staff.

"With exceptional leadership, an impressive client base and history of rapid growth, BzzAgent is well-positioned to become a category-defining company that will dramatically change the way companies market to consumers," John Simon, managing director at General Catalyst Partners, said in a statement. "There is tremendous opportunity for word-of-mouth marketing, and we look forward to working with BzzAgent to create this exciting new category."

But while BzzAgent has had a lot of success in recent years, not everyone has been happy to be associated with the outfit. Last year, Creative Commons--which helps create copyrights that allow for fair use of all kinds of content--decided to end a brief partnership with BzzAgent after a vocal outcry by its community, many members of which were upset that the nonprofit would team up with a word-of-mouth marketing company.