When it comes to pharmacy’s image, it seemed at first blush that an Esurance Super Bowl ad may have strayed out of bounds. But a calm look at the 30-second spot just may suggest that it’s a positive play for the profession.

Some attendees of the NACDS Regional Chain Conference, who were watching the game together in Naples, Fla., at first feared that the ad in some way took a shot at pharmacists. (It did look creepy!)

Esurance – an Allstate company – put together an ad in which actor Bryan Cranston portrays his drug-dealing Breaking Bad character, Walter White, posing as a pharmacist. A clearly-freaked-out patient challenges him, saying “You’re not Greg (her usual pharmacist).”

“I’m Sorta Greg,” Cranston replies. “We’re both over 50 years old, we both used to own a Pontiac Aztek. We both have a lot of experience with drugs… sorry, pharmaceuticals.”

The ad goes on to explain the odd scenario as an illustration of the company’s pledge that “Esurance helps make sure you only pay for what’s right for you, not ‘sorta’ like you.” The company prides itself on offering tailored plans that it bills as “CoverageMyWay™.”

Actress, singer and model Lindsay Lohan similarly contributed to Esurance’s theme in a separate but related Super Bowl ad, in which she posed as a reckless-driving “Sorta Mom.” AdAge reports that additional ads are planned for the campaign, including one involving a “Sorta Teacher.”

Of interest, pharmacists and teachers have consistently ranked among the top slots in Gallup’s annual “honesty and integrity” survey that tests the public’s perception of diverse professions. As for Moms, well they are generally considered to be right up there with baseball and apple pie.

NACDS – which vigorously tells the positive story of pharmacy’s value and which maintains a “Rapid Response” program to defend pharmacy against inaccurate and inappropriate representations in any forum – was eager to gauge reactions to “Sorta Greg.” The hope was that the true intent of the ad was the dominant-takeaway, and that the dark cloud of the character behind the pharmacy counter may actually contain a silver lining: the fact that the patient wasn’t having any of it.

The NACDS Facebook and LinkedIn pages asked the question: “Have to ask … the Esurance Super Bowl ad. 1) Offensive to pharmacy? 2) In a way complimentary because it’s clear the patient knows her real pharmacist? 3) Completely inconsequential?”

A Facebook follower commented: “Loved it. She was clearly skeptical of the sorta pharmacist and wanted the person she trusted.”

A LinkedIn follower wrote: “National attention on pharmacy!! Good or bad it’s still attention ;)”

Another follower on LinkedIn treated the question as a multiple choice and selected “2.”

Informal discussions with Conference attendees who saw the ad in its entirety detected no serious concerns, so the NACDS Rapid Response program stood down.

Of course, NACDS encourages members to keep eyes open for anything that – unlike “Sorta Greg” – takes a portrayal of pharmacists outside the lines.