Bad ads and bad pages are indeed a problem, regardless of delivery format... GIF ads blink just as much, in-page MP3 are fortunately an aberration whose time has gone.
The issue I am having is not the ads themselves (well, I do have an issue with the ads, but it's not the topic of these posts :-)). It's the fact that the end user is not given control in Flash over when content is presented and this is by design. Flash is not doing anything to help me protect myself from bad ads.
I understand that such design makes a lot of sense for Macromedia. Not because they are evil or something; it's just they are a business and as such their goal is to maximize their profit, not to please the end users. Macromedia is not getting money from me when I watch content in Flash. They are getting the money from the ads companies that buy their development tools.
For what it's worth, a good advertisement won't go all soapbox-y until you give it explicit direction... take a look at how video is controlled in this "Go Away Spray" example:
I totally agree with that. However, most ads are not good. Most ads will do anything to steal my attention and make me click through them. It's not yet as bad as spam, but it's getting there. (An example - when "Walking Tall" came out on the big screen, there wasn't a single day when The Rock wouldn't pop on my Yahoo! Mail screen. I must've clicked on this ad like fifty times or even more while trying to read my mail. In fact, that was the straw on the camel's back.) And, as John himself puts it:
People at Macromedia are trying to influence good advertising design, but it's hard to enforce it...
I commend Macromedia for these efforts, but that is not going to solve the problem.
Frankly, I don't really expect Macromedia to do anything about this. Still, one must never cease to hope. Plus, I just had to vent out... :-)
SIDE NOTE: John pointed me to XP SP2 as a possible solution. (Btw, it's interesting to note that the article John points to uses Flash ActiveX as an example :-)) This is would work only in IE and will most probably work only until somebody comes up with the idea of having a Java applet that internally instantiates the Flash object. I haven't tried this, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Browser Add-ons manager misses that.
There is also a wonderfull system tray utility that helps with installing/uninstalling Flash in IE. Several other people pointed me to a Firefox extension. Albeit these are great tools, they are still just workarounds. They target the problem in particular browser only. I'd love to have a generic solution, that wouldn't require me to install third party tools in my browser or on my OS.
Adam Robertson says in a comment:
Why blame Flash? These overlay ads can be made in any technology (admitedly 99.9% are flash) but only work in IE (due to it's lax security model and non-standard treatment of layers), so why not blame IE? Simple answer, switch to Firefox.
The topic of my post was a particular problem I have with Flash. Switching to Firefox is not the simple answer to world hunger and peace in Middle East. Flash will still work in Firefox and it will still be on by default and unless I install an extension to Firefox, Firefox will not prevent Flash from playing those ads. (Please, correct me if I am wrong)
I happen to like Firefox a lot; however, the fervor with which some people tend to push their political agenda is utterly frustrating. It's the single thing that puts me off of open source technologies and OSS community. Fanatics are not my favorite type of people.