DB Breweries has been ordered to withdraw television and online ads from its current campaign featuring Arnold Nordmeyer's infamous late-1950s "Black Budget" and the company's DB Export Beer.

Newspaper ads with the same theme are not affected.

The Advertising Standards Authority issued the order when it partially upheld MP Jim Anderton's complaint about the company's campaign which he said was unethical, inaccurate and distorted history.

The campaign focuses on Finance Minister Nordmeyer's 1958 budget boosting tax on imported beer, and Morton Coutts' claimed introduction of DB Export Beer in response to the tax.

Mr Anderton, Progressive Party leader and Wigram MP, was one of several people who lodged complaints about the ads.

He said in 1958, the amount of beer imported into New Zealand was miniscule and the budget simply equalised the excise so that local and imported beers would be equally priced.

Mr Anderton said that though Morton Coutts did develop a new brewing process, it was in isolation from and over a period before the budget.

"Some of the advertisements feature actual footage of angry demonstrations. There were no riots or demonstrations of any sort arising from the 1958 budget and to say or imply that there were is highly misleading and factually incorrect," Mr Anderton said in his complaint.

The footage shown was actually from the 1951 waterfront dispute and lockout.

Other complainants shared similar concerns about historical inaccuracies.

Late last year, former health minister and noted history writer Michael Bassett told the Herald on Sunday: "The accusation that New Zealand men 'were deprived of an honest beer' is hogwash.

"They simply had to pay a little more for it. There were certainly no riots in the streets."

Author Gordon McLauchlan, who wrote The Story of New Zealand Beer, dismissed the ad as fiction. "There is hardly a single correct fact or impression in it, except the names of Nordmeyer and Morton Coutts," he told the Herald on Sunday. "I'd say this fictitious little melodrama is the figment of an ad man's hangover."

DB denied that the advertisements were in breach of the advertising codes.

"The campaign was created to bring to light Morton Coutt's personal and subjective motivations for creating DB Export," DB said.

"We have told the story faithfully to the recorded history, to the recollections of many New Zealanders alive at the time and to motivations and intentions of Morton Coutts."

DB Export marketing manager Dave Shoemack told the Herald on Sunday: "We simply wanted to create a commercial that told the DB Export story and that is exactly what we have done."

Nick Worthington, the executive creative director of Colenso BBDO, the agency that made the ad, added: "I don't think a beer brand wants to be the guardians of history, we want to tell great stories."

The ASA Complaints Board ruled that the use of footage from a different historical event gave the impression of a credible and realistic depiction of history.

Though advertisers were entitled to use a degree of hyperbole and "creative licence", these went too far and most consumers would believe that they were watching an accurate depiction of historical events.

The majority of the board believed the television and cinema advertisements were likely to mislead and deceive consumers and were therefore in breach of the Code of Ethics. The complaint was not upheld for newspaper ads because these were ruled to be more conversational in tone and allowed the reader time to digest the story being told.

DB Breweries has not decided whether to appeal.

- NZPA, NZ Herald staff