January is one of my favorite issues to put together. Aside from anything else, there’s always something special about turning the page and looking forward to the New Year with optimism and renewed vigor.

But more than that, each January we get to name our All-Stars picks for Company, Agency, Marketing Teams and Media Brand of the Year. This is a thrill several times over: First, it’s a great excuse for us (meaning the editorial team) to sit down, review and discuss the industry’s best performers and performances of 2011.

Second, we get to tell our All-Stars that they’ve won—and who doesn’t like to make five phone calls like that right before the holidays? It’s akin to playing Santa. (Come to think of it, of scheduling and executing five photo shoots and nine interviews with 13 senior execs in a 10-day span just after Thanksgiving is Santa-esque in terms of its time/space ambition.)

Of course, the real treat is in gaining access to these wonderful people, and to hearing their own accounts of these triumphs. And having heard what they have to say—from Boehringer president/CEO Greg Behar to Medical Economics EVP Georgiann Decenzo—I’m proud to say that we have, once again, made some highly astute picks.

Each year we are asked by many people how we arrive at our choices. The first point to note is that the All-Star picks are editorial decisions, as opposed to the annual MM&M Awards program, where the winners are determined by the scoring of an independent panel of esteemed industry experts.

For each of the five accolades, we start by obtaining as much data as we can to draw up a short list of organizations and brands that performed the best over the previous 12 months. We then look a little closer at the context to see what events, forces, market conditions may have affected these performances, as well as any particular challenges they faced along the way. We also try to shed light on how they may have achieved these various successes—as a marketing-focused title, we are obviously looking for a good marketing story.

After narrowing the field further, we call on the insights and opinions of some of our most valued contacts, industry friends, ­analysts and editorial board members. Finally, as an editorial team, we pull together all of our research, have one last conversation and make our picks. So, yes, the methodology is prone to an element of subjectivity. But equally, yes, it’s done in the right way and in the right spirit.

So in a nutshell, what was special about our 2012 All-Stars?

Boehringer Ingelheim (company)—successful products, focus on R&D, strong company culture, embraces digital channels and social media.

ICC Lowe (agency/network)—entrusted with carrying IPG’s Lowe health mantle worldwide, 52 wins, 11 launches, headcount up 35%, revenues up 40%.

Victoza (marketing team, large)—out-muscled Byetta in the type 2 diabetes GLP-1 injectable class after just one year, with a gutsy strategy that also targeted orals Januvia, Ongylza and Tradjenta.

Incivek (marketing team, small)—brushed aside HCV rival Victrelis with biggest revenue-generating drug launch ever.

Medical Economics (media brand)—a rebound story to top them all with 38% increase in revenue and pages in the year to Oct 2011, vs. 2010.

So there you have it. And with that, I’d like to wish all of our readers a similarly happy and prosperous 2012.