USING CAPTIONS AS FRAMES

As an exercise in how to interpret an advertisement, they don't get much more rudimentary than this advert for Parliament. This is an ad for beginners. It actually goes to the trouble of justifying its use of the caption, "The Perfect Recess," to create a double meaning. Hence the strategy of using the protocol of dictionary definitions to ensure that we read the caption as having a double meaning.

This ad illustrates a nearly ideal use of the caption as a framing device to unite or bind two disparate meaning systems. In this case, the first meaning system is that evoked by reference to the scene of a horseback ride along the California beach at sunset with the love of your life, or some such thing. The second meaning system is that associated with Parliament brand pack of cigarettes. "The PERFECT RECESS" joins together the dual meaning systems by referring to both. The caption functions here to accomplish an equivalency exchange -- taking the scene (signifier) of a perfectly blissful respite or break from the nonremarkable routine of everyday life and blending it with the meaning (signified) of a cigarette that has an indented (recessed) filter.