From the Cracked article “5 Basic Facts of Life (Were Made Up by Marketing Campaigns)

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No, we don’t mean that advertisers went into the lab and genetically engineered herpes in order to sell herpes medication. We mean they invented the idea that herpes was a thing that people should worry about.


Don’t worry, only 85 percent of people can expect to catch this.

Well, how can that be possible? After all, chances are that when you hear the word “herpes,” the first thing you think of isn’t cold sores. No, your mind immediately jumps to oozing, pulsating herpes sores all over your junk. On the list of places where itchy, nasty sores would be most inconvenient, your wang (or your lady wang) comes in second only to “all up in your asshole.” But it gets worse — not only are the sores disgusting, but you also have to deal with the negative social stigma of herpes that comes along with having the “crotch rot.” People with herpes live in constant fear of others knowing it, sometimes becoming depressed, joining herpes support groups, even contemplating freaking suicide. Of course we should all be worried about herpes, right? It’s a disease!

BUT it actually came from …

Back in 1975, Burroughs Wellcome developed a drug that helped herpes sufferers by relieving their symptoms. The good people at Wellcome had one problem, though: The world gave precisely zero fucks about their new drug.


“A little blue pill that doesn’t make my dick hard? No thanks.”

How is this possible, you ask? Didn’t people have herpes back then? Well, the disease has been around for freaking ever — 2,000 years, if we’re going by the first time someone scratched his balls and then decided to make note of it on official record — but the thing is that herpes, both oral and genital, was never really seen as anything more than a sore in an inconvenient place, no more embarrassing than a zit. Herpes was so insignificant that common medical textbooks of the day didn’t even mention it. Hence, when people came down with sores on their mouth or down where the sun don’t shine, they didn’t think twice about it, not even realizing that these sores had a special name.


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“I just covered up with a giant hippie bush and figured that was the end of it.”

But then Burroughs Wellcome had a bright idea for how to market their drug for a disease nobody had heard of or cared about: They launched an ad campaign educating people about the difference between a normal cold sore and a “stigmatized genital infection,” which would make others treat you as if you had come down with a case of radioactive crotch.

The ads worked wonders. People with herpes felt (and to this day continue to feel) ashamed that they’d come down with it. They bought the drug in droves — a drug which, by the way, obviously did not cure herpes. Burroughs Wellcome thus came to invent what’s known today as “disease mongering,” which is basically making you feel like a social dipshit because of a common physical illness — sadly, a move that likely doesn’t even break the top five list of douchiest moves by pharmaceutical companies.


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“We’re renaming acne ‘deathface murderplague.’ That should do the trick.”

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