Brown Designated Vendor Program

Brown’s Designated Vendor Program (DVP) provides creative choice for the campus community through a pool of vendors with a strong record of creativity and innovation in delivering marketing communications services at Brown, as well as the skills and training to deliver projects that require an increasingly complex understanding of technology and laws.

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The DVP responds to a long history of requests for a pool of external vendors — as a strong alternative to the creative and marketing teams in the Office of University Communications — that have been assessed to offer quality, expertise, customer service and knowledge of Brown. The program also responds to the growing need that universities maintain safeguards to ensure that marketing projects are completed only by vendors knowledgeable about laws governing areas such as privacy, copyright and accessibility.

A key feature of the DVP is that only approved external vendors may deliver marketing communications services for Brown offices and departments. For departments and offices that work with an external vendor that has not been approved into the program, the University will require the office to suspend the project, pay the unauthorized vendor for services rendered, and restart the project with an approved vendor. This ensures that offices across Brown have access to vendors with the right skills and training, while also ensuring Brown meets federal requirements and other regulations related to marketing communications.

Creative teams within Brown still provide marketing services, but the DVP offers flexibility and choice and provides an alternative for times of year when University Communications may reach capacity for project work. The program was developed in coordination with the Office of Purchasing and in consultation with Finance & Administration.

Vendor Services

All vendors in the Designated Vendor Program have Master Service Agreements with the University. Per University policy, contracting with an approved vendor from the Designated Vendor Program requires a Scope of Work Agreement for each individual project. Participating vendors provide the following marketing services:

  Video Production
  Visual Design
  Web Development


Frequently Asked Questions

Brown’s Designated Vendor Program (DVP) offers a new level of creative flexibility and choice for offices and departments across Brown undertaking marketing communications projects. Departments that work with an external vendor for their marketing projects — as an alternative to working with one of the creative teams within Brown — select from an approved pool of vetted and trained vendors in five categories of marketing communications: photography, video production, visual design, web development and writing/editing. For departments that work with an external vendor, the University processes payment only for these approved external suppliers of marketing communications services.

For the purposes of this program, a marketing service is defined as any creative service that promotes the University, its people and/or its activities that is not considered news or documentary. For example, a freelance photographer or writer hired for a news article or magazine feature story would not fall under the program. A freelance photographer or writer hired for a promotional brochure would fall under the program. Contact [email protected] if you are unsure.

Departments and offices that work with an external vendor for marketing services must select from the pool of approved vendors that have Master Services Agreements with the University. Brown’s review process for identifying vendors ensures that vendors have the skills and training to complete projects that require an increasingly complex understanding of technology and laws governing privacy, copyright and accessibility. Particularly in line with federal requirements for accessibility, Brown and other institutions have committed to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to putting policies in place that help guarantee that vendors selected for marketing and communications projects possess the training and expertise to complete projects in compliance with regulations. Offices and departments also are assured of having vendors that have been provided with training in the University’s messaging strategy, visual identity and image use policies. This can save time for offices that typically are asked to meet vendor requests for various levels of “client discovery” or orientation.

The selection of vendors started with offices and departments across Brown. OUC pursued multiple rounds of nominations by asking offices to provide the names and contact information for the vendors with whom they have worked (explaining that any past or current vendors working with any office would have to apply for the program). We asked these vendors with an established record of performing services for Brown to apply to the program. Vendors submitted a portfolio and answered a series of in-depth questions about their strategic approach to their work, experience and qualifications. Teams of subject matter experts spent several months reviewing submissions, ensuring experience complying with federal requirements, where applicable, and checking professional references before making final decisions.

University Communications and Purchasing evaluate the Designated Vendor Program periodically. During this evaluation, we consider the volume and types of services that offices and departments are using, as well as overall satisfaction with individual vendors. We make decisions about ways to improve the program, including potentially adding vendors in certain service areas, as we seek to maintain the right level of vendor relationships to meet the needs of the community and retain vendors in the program.

If you hire a vendor that has not been approved into the DVP, the University may require you to suspend the project, pay the vendor for services rendered, and restart the project with an approved vendor. All DVP vendors have entered Master Service Agreements with the University and require a Scope of Work Agreement for each individual project.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions, and we are happy to help. We will help you identify the right path to complete your project, whether it be working directly with the creative teams in the Office of University Communications or with an external vendor. We provide consultation and guidance for all types of marketing communications projects.

Similar to working with creative teams within University Communications, initiating a project with an external vendor requires advance planning. You should notify University Communications as soon as you are conceiving your projects (several weeks or months before the project should begin, considering typical project timelines) to ensure you have sufficient time either to schedule the project with University Communications or to work with an external vendor and develop a Scope of Work Agreement before work begins. Consult the list of approved external vendors and review the vendors’ online portfolios to see their work. You will work directly with the vendor you choose to hire to develop an agreement for the work.

All DVP vendors have Master Services Agreements with the University so once you have selected a vendor, the Contract Requester in your unit will request a Statement of Work through the Brown Contract Management System (BCM). The Contract Request consists of completing some preliminary questions and information and attaching supporting documents, including a proposal if the vendor has provided one. Once approved, the Contract Manager will create the contract record, work with the appropriate parties for review and approval, and send the final contract for e-signature via DocuSign.

We have partnered with the Purchasing Office to consider the vendors in the Designated Vendor Program as “preferred suppliers” so that you do not have to obtain competitive quotes. Please note, however, that you may still wish to do so to find the best price for your budget. The Designated Vendor Program does not establish pricing or rates, but rather requires vendors to agree to maintain consistent pricing structures to protect against drastic variance in pricing across Brown. Please also note that competitive bids are still required for any project over $250,000 that uses federal funds, as federal regulations require that those projects receive public bids.

Print deliverables created by vendors in the Designated Vendor Program must follow the University's policy for outsourced print through the Brown External Print Vendor Program. “Essential” print projects as defined by University policy are communications that meet one or more of the following criteria and cost more than $3,000 to produce: 1) a print format is necessary to meet compliance requirements, accessibility standards, health and safety protocols, and/or any other regulatory requirement that, if not met, would put the University at legal risk; 2) a digital-only approach would result in a diminished user experience; and/or 3) a digital-only approach would result in the inability to reach certain audience segments and may adversely affect participation rates, fundraising goals, and/or general awareness of University programs.

Select the spend category that aligns with the marketing service provided.

Photography (3865): Photography and related activities, including art direction, photo capture, photo editing and delivery, location scouting, etc.

Video Production (3855): Video production and related activities, including video editing and delivery, scripting, directing and interviewing, storyboarding, location scouting, stylizing, etc.

Visual Design (3141): Design-related services for print and publications, social media and email, illustration, etc. (Excludes website design. See new spend category for Web Development.)

Web Development (3875): Website design, development and programming, etc.

Writing and Editing (3845): Marketing writing, copy writing, content strategy, proofreading, editing, etc.