Affiliate Marketing

How Trump Coins Became an Internet Sensation

They all led to this one door, Ms. Mirchandani said in an interview.

The Times conducted a similar search, reviewing an archived version of the Conservative Affiliates site from February 2020. That page offered a vital clue: an email for the Romanian marketing company Stone Force Media. The same name appeared on an obscure part of an affiliate marketing portal, which was visible only after signing up to advertise the Trump coin.

Ms. Mirchandani had also spotted the archived page along with a mention of Stone Force Media on an affiliate portal for Tactical Home Defense, an e-book about defending against home intrusion.

Those details placed Stone Force firmly in the middle of the mystery, with connections to Raw Conservative Opinions, Conservative Affiliates, the ClickBank listing and many other political and conspiracy-tinged products pushed online, including the coin itself.

Stone Force is an internet marketing company specializing in audience acquisition and monetization, according to its Facebook page and online job postings. The companys co-founders include Vlad Bolovan, who lists on his Instagram profile that he lives in Bucharest, and Brandon Kelly, who lists on his Facebook profile that he is from California and lives in Romania.

Operating from Bucharest since 2016 with a staff of eight, Stone Force posted revenue of $1.07 million 2019, according to the business analysis company Dun & Bradstreet. The listing on D&B, which also showed revenue for 2020, was taken offline after The Times contacted Stone Force for this article.

When reached about the coin, a spokesman for Stone Force confirmed that the company was the coins vendor but declined to comment further. He later forwarded an email from late 2021 showing that Stone Force had warned affiliates against marketing the coins as a kind of cryptocurrency. As of January, many ads on Telegram were still promoting the coin that way.

Mr. Bolovan and Mr. Kelly also declined to comment.

At an affiliate marketing conference in 2021, Mr. Bolovan said the United States presidential election had prompted technology companies to crack down on unethical and misleading advertising, known in the business as Black Hat marketing.

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